Minneapolis reports: Crime is up! Crime is down! What?


The City of Minneapolis trumpeted the good news in a December 26 press release:

“Minneapolis crime numbers for 2012 stay among the lowest levels in decades — Serious crime nearly flat, violent crime sees a single-digit increase over 2011.”

The Star Tribune had a different take on the same numbers:

Violent crime on the rise in Minneapolis this year.”

So what’s really going on?

The city’s press release says Minneapolis is “on pace to finish 2012 with crime numbers that are among the lowest in the last 30 years.” That’s true — the numbers are “among the lowest.” Last year — 2011 — had the lowest numbers since 1983. This year’s numbers, while somewhat higher, are still “among the lowest,” even if they don’t beat 2011.

But — since they don’t beat 2011’s record lows — it’s also true that, as the Star Tribune reads the numbers, violent crime is “on the rise in Minneapolis this year.”

The bigger story — if anyone reads beyond the battling headlines — is that crime in Minneapolis has been on a steady downward trajectory. Even youth crime is dropping, as last year’s press release reported: “From 2006–10 (the last year that full statistics are available), the number of youth suspects involved in violent crime dropped 60 percent.”

Feeling any safer?

Probably not. Facts don’t matter much, when stacked up against the fear fed by our cultural fascination with crime. Crime stories sell, on TV (think NCIS, Law and Order, CSI), in books (Michael Connelly, John Sandford, even Agatha Christie), and in real life, where the mantra for news is still, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

For what it’s worth, decreasing crime rates are not limited to Minneapolis, or to Minnesota. In October, the FBI reported:

“According to our just-released Crime in the United States, 2011 report, the estimated number of violent crimes reported to law enforcement (1,203,564) decreased for the fifth year in a row, while the estimated number of property crimes reported to law enforcement (9,063,173) decreased for the ninth year in a row.”

Of course, the 2012 numbers are not final yet. So wait for the next word, which will come on January 4 with Police Chief Janeé Harteau and Mayor R.T. Rybak holding a press conference to discuss comprehensive 2012 crime statistics and trends in public safety at a news conference—at 9 a.m. at the 5th Precinct in Southwest Minneapolis.