Violent crime increases in Minneapolis

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Crime has increased in Minneapolis, although by how much is disputed.

According to preliminary data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, Minneapolis saw a 35 percent increase in violent crime last year, but the city’s Police Department said the increase was 15 percent.

The Minneapolis Police Department incorrectly sent the statistics for the FBI’s preliminary report, causing the discrepancy, said Ron Reier, the department’s public information officer.

Reier said the FBI’s final report is expected to show the revised numbers. The preliminary report exists to catch this type of mistake, he said.

The FBI report calculated the cumulative figure based on an index of four types of violent crime: murder, robbery, aggravated assault and forcible rape. Using the FBI’s numbers, Minneapolis experienced the biggest increase of any U.S. city its size.

No matter what data is taken into account, the increase was significantly greater than the 2.5 percent national increase. The national increase reversed a five-year decreasing trend and was the largest increase since 1991.

“We’ve found a large discrepancy between the FBI Uniform Crime Report and our own crime statistics,” said inspector Valerie Wurster, commander of the 2nd Precinct. “But in either case, violent crime is up.”

The increase in crime came despite an 11.3 percent decrease in murders, from 53 in 2004 to 47 in 2005. Much of the increase can be attributed to a 40.8 percent increase in robberies, from 2,248 to 3,165, and a 37.4 percent increase in aggravated assaults, from 2,036 to 2,798, while forcible rape increased from 389 to 395, according to the FBI report.

Increased juvenile crime and gun availability factor into the increase, Wurster said. Gang-related crime also has increased and accounts for much of the violent crime committed, she said.

Carol Oosterhuis, crime prevention specialist for the 2nd Precinct, said the constantly increasing population of Minneapolis coupled with a decrease in the number of officers has contributed to the surge.

“What we’re seeing is Minneapolis growing, and with fewer officers to contain and patrol these violent crimes, they have gone up,” Oosterhuis said.

Steve Johnson, deputy chief of the University Police Department, said he has noticed the increase throughout University neighborhoods, particularly with robberies.

University police are working with Minneapolis police to curb this crime, Johnson said.

“We desperately want to protect our students from these violent crimes,” Johnson said.

Southeast Como Neighborhood Coordinator James De Sota said crime is a large problem.

“There has definitely been a rise in the violent nature of crimes in the last two or three years,” De Sota said. “We’ve also seen a large increase in the amount of crimes that are compounded with the use of guns or knives.”

Some University students had differing views on the issue.

“I guess I’m not surprised,” said civil engineering senior Ashley Grzybowski. “Living here, it seems like I’ve heard a lot about crime going on.”

But Grzybowski said even hearing about crime increases still makes it scary to walk alone at night, and that finding a safe place to live becomes more of an issue.

Electrical engineering graduate student Chris Hescott said he thinks it’s important to remain skeptical.

“When I hear numbers like that the first thing I’d do is check all the sources,” Hescott said.

Only two U.S. cities with more than 100,000 people reported higher violent crime increases than Minneapolis’, according to the FBI report. Norfolk, Va., saw a 36.5 percent increase while Overland Park, Kan., saw a 49.7 percent increase. However, Overland Park, population about 150,000, had 494 incidents, fewer than Minneapolis’ 6,405.

St. Paul saw violent crime reports increase by 1.4 percent, but murders increased from 20 in 2004 to 24 in 2005.

Minneapolis was among several Midwestern cities that reported large increases in violent crime, including: Detroit by 31.6 percent, Milwaukee by 32.5 percent and Indianapolis by 12.5 percent. As a region, the Midwest saw a cumulative increase of 5.7 percent, according to the report.

Nationally, the number of murders increased by 4.8 percent, robberies by 4.5 percent and aggravated assaults by 1.9 percent, while the number of forcible rapes declined by 1.9 percent, according to the FBI.

Marni Ginther contributed to this report.

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