City leaders unveil new strategies targeting violent crime

(From left) City Council President Barb Johnson, Mayor Betsy Hodges, Police Chief Janeé Harteau, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and City Attorney Susan Segal at a press conference Friday morning. Credit: Photo by Sarah McKenzie

City leaders and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman unveiled new initiatives Friday targeting violent crime in Minneapolis, including a new police investigations team and prosecutor focused on repeat violent offenders.

The new strategies come as the city has experienced a nearly 6 percent increase in violent crime and spike in homicides compared to a year ago. Arrests for violent crimes are up 13 percent compared to 2014.

Many cities across the country have experienced bigger increases in violent crime than Minneapolis, including Milwaukee, St. Louis and Baltimore.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said six seasoned MPD investigators have been assigned to the new violent crime investigations team. They will be working with crime analysts to investigate shooting incidents and gun-related crimes.

“We have had 208 more violent crimes reported in our city this year. We do not accept, nor will we tolerate, the violence we have seen, and we will continue to be aggressive in our enforcement efforts and crime-prevention strategies,” Harteau said at a City Hall press conference.

She noted that the MPD has 824 sworn officers on the street and will have 860 by year’s end.

Mayor Betsy Hodges said she’s reached out to many public safety partners along with several other leaders in the schools, parks system, nonprofits and faith community to discuss the new approach to targeting violent offenders.

“Focusing our investigative resources on violent crime will allow us to more effectively track patterns and connect dots between people and events, and even prevent the next shooting before it occurs,” she said.

Harteau said police face challenges following up on shooting incidents because witnesses and victims are often reluctant to talk and instead want “street justice.”

“We know frequent victims of gun violence are also perpetrators of gun violence and we need to find ways to make those connections quicker,” she said. “The goal of this [violent crimes investigation] team is to increase the prosecution and accountability of offenders who perpetrate gun violence with an overarching goal to reduce gun violence in the city of Minneapolis.”

The MPD also has two new National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) investigators that work closely with the ATF and follow up on reports of shootings with the goal of finding suspects earlier.

As of Oct. 31, 526 people have been arrested by Minneapolis Police during incidents where a gun was recovered this year, according to MPD stats provided at the press conference. Of those individuals, 17 have been arrested more than once with a gun. All together, those same 526 people have been arrested a total of 6,271 times by the MPD since 1990.

Harteau also referenced the Sept. 12 shooting at 5th & Hennepin that left six people injured. Three men were charged after firing weapons near the LRT station where 18 officers were along with several bystanders. Harteau said the three men collectively have 43 arrests on their records.

Freeman said the County Attorney’s Office will continue to prioritize cases involving convicted felons in possession of guns. The mandatory minimum sentence for a felon with a gun is 60 months, he said, noting some judges veer away from the mandatory minimum sentence, however.

Freeman said he’s assigned a veteran prosecutor who has handled many gang-related and violent crime cases to work close with the MPD’s new violent crime investigations team.

“Better coordination means better results,” Freeman said, adding public safety officials are doing their best to prevent gun violence. “If we really, really wanted to get serious and do something about gun crime, we’d do something about the flow of guns, but this country has shown a lack of ability or commitment to do so.”

City Council President Barb Johnson (Ward 4) said public safety is the top priority for city leaders.

“This focus on violent offenders is exactly where we should be putting our time and effort,” she said. “It will step up the coordination between the city and the County Attorney and target it on the very few people who are responsible for violent incidents in our community. It is a focused effort that will make a great difference and hold violent offenders accountable.”