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Mayor Frey updates violent crime battle in Minneapolis

The city saw an increase in homicides, carjackings, robberies and other criminal acts in 2021, and residents are demanding action.

MINNEAPOLIS — The city of Minneapolis is not alone in facing a recent spike in violent crime that includes an increase in homicides, carjackings and other criminal acts that have residents demanding action.

Crime rates are up in many metropolitan areas across the country, and criminologists are blaming the COVID pandemic and conflicts over race and politics. But Minneapolis has been at the epicenter of that fallout, as the place where George Floyd was murdered by former police officer Derek Chauvin. City officials reported 96 homicides in 2021, one shy of a record set in 1995. 

At a news conference to update the city's response to these crime spikes, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey did not attempt to sugar coat things, calling it "a very grave problem." 

"Let me be exceedingly clear... the violent and criminal conduct that we have seen in Minneapolis and surrounding cities throughout the last several months is garbage," Frey said. "I can stand up here and tell you, and many will, that every major city in the country is seeing an uptick in violent crime, shootings, carjackings, home invasions, and that's true. But who cares, you live in this city,  I live in this city, and we are responsible for making sure we are doing everything possible to preventing this kind of violent criminal conduct and holding violent perpetrators responsible and working on every single possible upstream solution we can." 

The mayor was accompanied by Assistant Chief and soon-to-be interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman, who he said is directing increased enforcement and re-directing department resources to make the city a safer place. 

Frey said public safety is a foundational element of that impacts nearly every goal that the city has, including economic recovery from COVID and the fallout from George Floyd's death to affordable housing and job security. 

Turning the tide on crime numbers is part of "making sure that our city bounces back," Frey insisted. 

The mayor addressed one major challenge, a precipitous dip in the number of officers as hundreds retired or quit in the wake of Floyd's death and Chauvin's conviction. The mayor says five new recruiting classes will come on line to fortify those numbers in the next year, with the first starting in February and graduating in June. 

Frey appealed to those who he called 'the best, brightest, most talented and community oriented people" in Minneapolis, asking them to apply to be part of the department. "If you care deeply about your community, if you want to be the change in the Minneapolis Police Department, we're asking you to sign up and apply. You can be that change in our department."

Along with sworn officers, Huffman said the city will be hiring 40 community service officers, people with strong character and a desire to serve their city. Candidates don't need a law enforcement degree, only a high school diploma and a will to help improve relations between residents and the department.

The city will help those hired with training and resources in hopes some will become badged officers.

Assistant Chief Huffman acknowledged that continued spikes in violent crime "continue to frighten and trouble our community," from residents to business owners, schools and neighborhood organizations. "It is clear that violent crime is hurting our city," Huffman said. 

The soon-to-be interim chief laid out some stark numbers from 2021, a year that saw 650 people shot and more than 2,000 robberies, including more than 650 carjackings. Huffman said investigators are working hard to solve those crimes, looking for cars taken in those carjackings and used in additional violent acts. 

Huffman used last night in the city as an example of the challenge the department faces in keeping the public safe. In one incident community residents called police to 44th Avenue North concerned about suspicious activity involving a vehicle. When officers responded they found three juveniles - one 17-year-old male and two that were 15 - inside a car, each of them in possession of a 9-mm handgun. The teens were taken into custody, and three guns were pulled off the street. 

On the same night, two women in Northeast Minneapolis were followed home in separate incidents by a group of three women around 10:30 p.m. Both were violently assaulted, suffering injuries to their head and face. One had her vehicle stolen, the other had her purse taken. No suspects are in custody. 

Both Huffman and Frey are clearly frustrated, but say community partners, especially those that identify and engage young people at risk of taking the wrong path, are a long-term solution to the larger crime problem. They believe change is not only possible but necessary, and that everyone can play a role in making it happen. 

"We live in Minneapolis, we love Minneapolis, we're responsible here in Minneapolis... and we're going to be doing everything possible to make sure Minneapolis, working with our other surrounding partnerships and jurisdictions, that we're keeping people safe," Frey said.

On Wednesday, Stephanie Revering, who is the Chief of Police for the Crystal Police Department and the President of the Hennepin County Chiefs of Police Association, wrote a letter to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman on behalf of the chief's association.

In the letter, Revering is calling for a handful of changes to potentially help stop some of the violence across the county, including more aggressive prosecution of cases, revisiting bail reform procedures and refraining from using "sign and release" warrants for violent crimes and felony-level crimes for individuals.

The full letter can be read below:

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