Mpls sees drop in violent crime rate

The decrease follows initiation of tougher sentences for gun crimes.

by Andre Eggert

Minneapolis has seen a drop in violent crime following the July start of an initiative that places tougher sentences on gun crime.
Last week, Mayor R.T. Rybak announced that the number of people prosecuted for gun and knife crimes has increased by 50 percent since summer.
Project Minneapolis Exile brings law enforcement and authorities together to punish violent crimes âÄúto the fullest extent.âÄù
The project, announced July 22, came in response to a string of violent crimes âÄî many by repeat offenders âÄî at the beginning of the year.
Unofficial FBI statistics place Minneapolis about 20th in overall crime rate among cities with populations greater than 250,000, and the city is in the top 25 for robbery and aggravated assault. Minneapolis has previously been dubbed âÄúMurderapolisâÄù due to its notably high murder rate in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The program focuses heavily on prosecution and has not changed the role of police. Minneapolis police Chief Tim Dolan said in a prepared statement that he was hesitant to draw a direct correlation between the project and the drop in crime, but noted that it âÄúcoincidedâÄù with the drop.
Dolan attributes the decrease to police efforts to get criminals off the street.
âÄúOur goal back in July was to instill fear in individuals using guns, including the fear of prosecution,âÄù he said. âÄúThe numbers of violent crimes committed with guns since then have been unusually low.âÄù
Minneapolis police Sgt. Bill Palmer  agrees. He said the police will continue to arrest people on the street for gun crimes. âÄúItâÄôs what happens beyond the arrest thatâÄôs being addressed by Project Exile.âÄù
Federal agencies have also been involved in the program.
The arrests and prosecution of criminals put pressure on illegal gun suppliers and other violent offenders, according to Special Agent B.J. Zapor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms  and Explosives.  This may have a ripple effect that lowers crime beyond the arrests.
âÄúThe best crime-fighting strategy is keeping a crime from being committed in the first place,âÄù Rybak said.
But he said more needs to be done.
âÄúItâÄôs a start, but itâÄôs still only a start,âÄù he said. âÄúAnytime a gun crime is a committed, itâÄôs a sign that we need to do more.âÄù