Growing crime exceeds arrests

While the number of crimes committed continues to grow, the arrest rate is decreasing.

by Kevin Behr

Violent crime in Minneapolis has increased this year while arrests for those crimes have declined.

Instances of violent crime since Jan. 1 total 5,937, according to Minneapolis police weekly statistics.

Those same statistics show only 1,315 arrests have been made for those crimes. That amounts to an arrest rate of 22 percent, a decrease of five percent from the same time period in 2005. In 2004, the rate was 31 percent.

While arrest rates for violent crime have dropped, arrests for all crime in the city have remained relatively consistent, between 41 and 45 percent.

Minneapolis police made 28,071 arrests for 64,709 crimes from Jan. 1 to Nov. 27 this year, an arrest rate of 44 percent.

Crime analyst Allan Knox, who compiles weekly statistics for the Minneapolis police, said the statistics need to be taken with a grain of salt.

“If we base everything on (statistics), it can scare the hell out of some people,” he said. “(Numbers) don’t do anything more than count.”

Types of crimes, reporting and many other factors must be considered when analyzing crime statistics, Knox said.

Types of crime

Crimes are generally separated into two categories: Part I and Part II.

Part I crimes include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson.

Part II crimes include lesser offenses such as prostitution, narcotics, weapons violations and property crimes.

The nature of these incidents determines how much effort police put into investigating and arresting suspects.

For example, arrests for Part II crimes are driven by police being proactive, said Minneapolis police Lt. Greg Reinhardt.

“If officers have a lot of free time,” he said, “they can go out and make a lot of Part II arrests.”

There are generally more arrests for Part II crimes than Part I because they are ongoing problems, such as prostitution, that officers are specifically assigned to combat, Reinhardt said. Part I crimes require officer reaction, he said.

Four things ultimately lead to solving a Part I crime, including catching a person in the act, or obtaining evidence, a confession or eyewitnesses, Reinhardt said.

If some of these things are missing, it can limit how much effort is put into an investigation, he said.

Other factors

The practicality of an investigation, officer availability and the way crimes are counted all affect the arrest rate.

For example, assaults are counted by victim while auto thefts are counted by vehicle, Knox said.

“You could have one assault (incident) but five people were assaulted,” he said. “That’s five assaults.”

The resulting statistics would show only one arrest, leaving four assaults unaccounted for.

With limited resources, some crimes go uninvestigated due to lack of evidence and sheer number of cases.

“There are 200 times more thefts than there are murders,” Reinhardt said, “so there’s a limitation to some of the things you can investigate.”

It’s not that police do not look into less severe crimes, but more serious ones garner more attention, he said.

The Minneapolis Police Department receives over 400,000 calls a year, Reinhardt said. Many of them are for mundane things such as barking dogs or loud stereos. Officers are obligated to respond to all calls, and that could distract police from investigating more serious crimes.

Staffing continues to be an issue for the Minneapolis Police Department, which currently has 812 officers.

“Violent crime is up 18 percent. Our staffing is not up 18 percent,” Reinhardt said. “The crimes listed (in the statistics) are one-tenth of what we do.”

There are too many criminals and not enough officers, he said.

To address the issue, the department plans to add 23 more officers by the end of the month and hopes to have a force of 893 by the end of 2007.