Violent crime falls, but remains elevated over pre-pandemic levels
A Minneapolis police officer unrolls caution tape at a crime scene on June 16, 2020 in Minneapolis. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.
Violent crime fell sharply in Minnesota last year, with the Twin Cities as well as Greater Minnesota posting fewer homicides and other major offenses, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
In the seven-county Twin Cities region, robberies decreased by 18%, homicide by 11%, and rape and aggravated assault were both down by 2%.
Property crimes were similarly down across the board with one major exception: motor vehicle thefts, which were up by 21% in the Twin Cities. That increase is driven almost exclusively by incidents in the core counties of Hennepin and Ramsey.
Preliminary data for 2023 shows that those trends are continuing this year. Statewide through July there have been 97 homicides recorded in 2023, compared to 114 for the same period in 2022.
While the ebb in violence from the 2021 high water mark is welcome, violent crime overall still remains elevated well above pre-pandemic levels. In per-capita terms, the murder rate remains slightly below the all-time high set in the mid-1990s.
Relative to 2019, homicide is up 55%, assault is up 54%, and robberies have increased by 6%. Burglary and larceny are down since 2019, while car theft and arson are still high.
The long-term picture on property crime is considerably rosier than violent crime. The burglary rate is the lowest it’s been since the early 1950s, while the rate of other theft is the second-lowest since the 1960s (it was slightly lower back in 2017).
Car thefts, while high relative to recent years, are still considerably less common than they were in the 1970s and 1990s — and much of that recent spike owes to deficiencies in vehicles manufactured by Kia and Hyundai.
Earlier this year, the DFL-controlled Legislature passed a public safety bill containing a number of reforms to the criminal justice system, including earlier release for prisoners who complete programming; reductions in probation time; and funds to train non-police crisis response teams. None of those provisions were in effect in 2022, but Republicans in the Legislature have nonetheless latched on to them to criticize Democrats.
“Let’s not get too comfy, too fast with a one-year decrease in violent crime,” said state Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, in a statement. “Recent legislative changes did nothing to help our law enforcement with their efforts to keep citizens safe.”
The statement went on to criticize shorter prison terms.
But the length or severity of prison sentences has virtually no effect on crime deterrence, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The certainty of being caught, however, can be a powerful deterrent.
Other research shows that prevention efforts, like increased funding and support for low-income communities, are more likely to reduce rates of crime in the future.
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