IS VIOLENCE, PARTICULARLY WITH GUNS, ESCALATING? DO WE HAVE ENOUGH POLICE TO RESPOND TO THE INCREASED VIOLENCE?
Public awareness, the media, and published data all point to the increase in violent crimes in the U.S. as well as Minneapolis. By definition, violent crime encompasses murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
- The pandemic
- Gang violence
- Increase in number of guns
- Social unrest
- Unstable communities
The problem is complex and solutions can be elusive. Data reinforces the increase in violence:
- City homicides have increased from 46 in 2019, to 80 and 93 in 2020 and 2021, respectively. This year, as of Oct 3, 68 homicides have been recorded
- Before March 2020 the average number of shots fired was ~350/month, YTD Sept 2022 is 795/month
- In Minneapolis number of gunshot victims was up 90% from the first half of 2021 to the first half of 2020
- Gun violence is concentrated in hot spots in Minneapolis
- Two-thirds of gun violence victims are under 31
- 83% of gunshot victims are Black 89% of suspects were Black
- 56% of shooting victims in Minneapolis in 2022 report residing in Minneapolis
- The number of carjackings in Minneapolis hit a high of 113 in November 2021; in Aug 2022 there were 64 carjackings
- Gun possession has increased as well as the use of guns - 2020 and 2021 set records for new permits to carry and by March 1, 2022 there were 387,013 valid permits to carry in Minnesota
- The average number of gun deaths annually in Minnesota is 462, 76% of these are by suicide
The city’s elected officials and many others have seen a push to invest more services in Black families. Targeting social factors has been a focus in public safety initiatives in other cities too. Civilian violence interrupters now often aid police. The city’s Office of Violence Prevention has been working on prevention for a number of years and is now part of the Office of Community Safety and is targeted for increased funding in 2023-24. A focus on mental health has also received backing and increased funding. All this is coupled with the fact that courts have to deal with juvenile offenders and more people own guns. The path to slowing violence down may not happen overnight. However, the city recently announced “Operation Endeavor” which is a plan to unite police, unarmed violence interrupters, prosecutors, businesses and others to help halt violent crime.
Do We Have Enough Police?
Since the murder of George Floyd and the uncertainty of the pandemic, the city has witnessed a reduction in the number of police--only 563 officers were on actively on the force the end of July 2022, down from 817 in early 2020. Many left the force due to PTSD, the crisis of George Floyd’s murder, and riots that followed. North side Minneapolis residents filed a lawsuit over the lack of police presence. It eventually reached the Minnesota Supreme Court which ruled that by June 2022 the city must hire a minimum of 731 police officers citing the Minneapolis City Charter requirement that there should be 1.7 peace officers per 1,000 residents. On October 2, 2022 the north side group dropped their suit citing the clarity of the requirement that the suit brought and the city's good faith efforts to respond. Recruitment of officers is underway including outreach to youth in high schools to interest them in law enforcement careers.
Additionally, the city commissioned a study to understand the factors that impact police staffing and it is actively piloting and rolling out programs to provide alternative responses to armed officer response to 911 calls for certain types of calls, like mental health and administrative reporting. The goal would be to give police more time to focus on the calls that require their training and also for developing relationships in the communities they serve.
Police reforms have been announced and some are in process. City Council and mayoral discussions are examining other resources for improving public safety.
The question remains whether more patrols will control gun violence and other crimes to give the public and community a sense of enhanced public safety. Will changes in the police department and attention to youth issues be enough to limit violent crime going forward?
Number of Gunshot Victims in Minneapolis is Up 90% From Last Year; Solutions Elusive, PBS Frontline, June 19, 2021
2022 Gun Violence Overview, City of Minneapolis website, August 2022
Minneapolis city leaders unveil new public safety plan, KARE11, September 23, 2022