Editorial Roundup: The Minneapolis crime problem is state’s problem

Published 8:49 pm Friday, July 15, 2022

If Minneapolis were hit with a natural disaster, the rest of the state, first responders, police and others would be indeed offering their assistance at every turn.

So now that it is in the midst of social disaster of crime and civil unrest emanating from the winds of the George Floyd murder by police, the state should also rally around its major city and source of much that Minnesotans love. Doing so will help the city rebuild from once-in-a-lifetime bad fortunes and restore its status as a tourist and visitor draw.

Gov. Tim Walz has already taken some steps to bring state resources to bear on rising crime and gun violence. He has ordered 20 additional State Patrol officers, some of whom helped confiscate a dozen cars involved in street racing in the last week. The extra trooper and aviation patrol will also be called on to crack down on criminal activity.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will assist the city in homicide and assault investigations. And U.S. Attorney Andrew Lugar has commissioned his lawyers to focus on violent criminal activity and, in particular, cases involving guns.

But Minneapolis needs a lot of help. So far in 2022, the city has experienced 300 shootings and 47 homicides, far exceeding the norms of years past of 17. Its police force numbered 886 officers just two years ago, but now number only 564. Several have left due to post traumatic stress and disability stemming from the violence and riots following the Floyd murder. Leadership has failed and turnover there has also destabilized the department.

Walz’s Republican opponents wrongly claim that Minneapolis’ Democratic leadership caused the strife, but Mayor Jacob Frey campaigned against calls of some on the City Council to defund police. The city’s public safety budget is $3 million higher than it used to be, with some federal funding from the pandemic relief. Frey has hired the first ever public safety commissioner.

In fact, it was Republicans in the Senate who went back on their word on a budget deal that would have sent millions to police efforts, including recruitment, in Minneapolis and elsewhere.

Walz is headed in the right direction. He is following the strategy of former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson, who also offered state crime fighting resources to Minneapolis in the 1990s when it experienced increased homicide rates.

But Minneapolis needs more state and federal assistance to get a police force back to earlier levels. Neighboring agencies in the metro area should offer assistance, and Walz should deploy incentives to get Minneapolis more help.

Minneapolis is losing some of its allure as the crown jewel urban area of Minnesota. But as Minneapolis goes, so too will all of Minnesota. So it’s time for civic leaders and citizens to give Minneapolis a hand up.

Mankato Free Press, July 13