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What's behind the increase in carjackings?

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office said it assigned two attorneys to specifically oversee carjacking cases.

MINNEAPOLIS — Anecdotally, it feels like carjackings are happening everywhere.

Just last week, there was an incident at Lunds & Byerly's in St. Louis Park and Edina. 

A City of Minneapolis employee had his city vehicle carjacked on November 16th. 

The Hennepin County Attorney's office said 138 carjacking cases were referred to the office as of Dec. 13 this year. Last year, in 2020, that number was 124.

So, why is this happening to us?

Well, Northwestern University Law School Children & Family Justice Center's policy director Stephanie Kollmann says it's not just us.

"In a lot of the jurisdictions that have seen an increase in carjackings over the last couple of years, that it mostly has been covered as a local phenomenon," Kollmann said. "And it's only recently that people are beginning to understand that this was sort of a wider trend that has increased exponentially increased over the pandemic but also has been on the rise a little bit over the last several years."

The Hennepin County Attorney's office also said of the 138 carjackings from this year, 94 were done by juveniles and 44 were adults. 

Seems like the narrative of "wily teens are behind the rash" fits. However, Kollmann also has a theory on that.

"So when you think about why it might be easier to catch some people than others-- you might consider the fact that they engaged in a crime in a larger group, that it was more spontaneous and not very well planned out, people had unforeseen complications, maybe they weren't very familiar with how to drive the vehicle," she listed. "And those are sort of the hallmarks of young people who are engaged in an offense."

RELATED: Edina city leaders to talk more about crime next week

So more minors may just be getting caught. In terms of what else might be contributing to the uptick?

A few reasons. Advancement in key fob technology may be one.

"Certainly car thefts of newer vehicles that are unattended seem to be going down as a result of the fact that you cant really drive away a vehicle without either overriding a car's computer system or having the key fob in your hand," she said. "So instead what is happening is that people are being confronted in order to get the key fob."

At least according to the City of Minneapolis' crime dashboard, straight up auto thefts are actually down, from 91 in 2020 to 82 in 2021. 

Same with burglaries...down to 34 cases compared to 2020's 83.

"So what used to be a property crime burglary, may now be a robbery instead, just because the fact that people are in their homes more, and so there's not as much opportunity to steal items from an unattended place," Kollmann said. "And so you may have to confront someone on the street or because streets are emptier it may be easier to confront them."

The reaction to this, as shown by Edina police after the incident at Lunds, could be to increase patrols.

In terms of whether an increased police presence will reduce carjackings?

"There isn't any research to suggest that additional police presence is going to be the thing that will reduce carjackings," Kollmann said. "I will tell you the city of Chicago has more police per capita than any other large city, and we still have a sharp uptick in carjackings."

RELATED: Hennepin County Attorney's Office puts two prosecutors specifically on carjacking cases

RELATED: Edina carjacking victim speaks out to raise awareness and spark change

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