Crime down in Minneapolis

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Violent crime in Minneapolis has decreased by 38% since 2006, and property crimes have decreased by 23% since 2007, according to a panel of experts who gathered Friday, July 31, to talk about falling crime rates. The occasion was the monthly “Breakfast with Gary” community meeting with Minneapolis City Council Member Gary Schiff.

The panel included Minneapolis Chief of Police Tim Dolan, Deputy Chief of Police Rob Allen, Hennepin County District Court Judge Tanya Bransford, Minneapolis Police Department Head of the Juvenile Division Lieutenant Mike Sullivan, and Dallas Drake, co-founder of and Principal Researcher for the Center for Homicide Research. The panel talked to a group of about 10 citizens early in the morning in a brightly colored cafeteria in the Mercado Central.

In a summary of his Mid Year Crime Report to Public Safety & Regulatory Committee (PDF), Deputy Police Chief Allen cited the switch to a predictive analysis model as one of the reasons for the drop in homicides. “[…] we’ve gone from analyzing historical data to predicting what’s going to happen so we can prevent it,” said Allen.

Predicting future crimes is a science, according to Dallas Drake. “When we have a homicide here in the Cities, that homicide typically happens in the same place that it’s happened for the last thirty years,” Drake said. “And within two weeks, within two blocks of that homicide, there is a 33 percent chance of another homicide.”

Deputy Allen described the impact of this new policing model by saying, “It used to be we’d have a homicide and a week later you’d get information about it. Now officers get a daily intelligence bulletin. They say, ‘This is where we predict a crime is going to occur in your district, this is where we want you out working.’”

Another reason for the decrease in crime, according to Judge Bransford and Lt. Mike Sullivan, has been a change in the juvenile system. The change has been twofold: Minneapolis has reduced the number of juveniles it holds in its Detention Center, and the city has been working with other community-based programs, specifically the Juvenile Supervision Center, in order to provide better services to the youth.

When the Minneapolis Police Department disbanded the juvenile unit in 2005, “the department made a significant mistake […] thinking we could handle juveniles who commit crimes just like adults,” said Sullivan. “During that time we experienced almost a 55% increase in violent juvenile crime.”

According to Judge Bransford, a six-year veteran of the Hennepin County Juvenile Court system, if juveniles are unnecessarily detained, they are more likely to re-offend, or to drop out of school. In detention, high-risk kids are more likely to recruit low-risk kids for gangs and similar activities.

When the reasons for detaining children were analyzed by the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative and the Council on Crime & Justice, they found that only one third of the children were there for new offenses. Another third were locked up for court offenses, such as failing to attend a court date. The final third were detained for probation violations, which could be for as minor a reason as forgetting to call the probation officer.

The Hennepin County juvenile justice system has decreased the number of juvenile detainees from 96 in 2005 to 43 in June of 2009—a drop of more than 50 percent. The decreased number of detainees seems to correlate to the drop in crime. “From 2006 to 2008, there has been a 38% decrease in juvenile violent crime,” said Sullivan.

In addition to reducing the number of juvenile detainees, the City of Minneapolis has replaced its Curfew Truancy Center with the Juvenile Supervision Center, which is run by The Link. The JSC is a community-based youth service organization that offers a variety of intervention services to kids who are low level offenders, including access to a social worker.

And the JSC gets a lot of business. Since it opened in January of 2008, “there have been more than 2000 youth who, instead of going to the Detention Center, went to the Juvenile Supervision Center, received services, and didn’t come back,” said Judge Bransford.

Marinda Bland (email marinda@tcdailyplanet.net) lives and writes in the Twin Cities.

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