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Carjacking case highlights MPD staffing issues

Woman gave police GPS locations of her stolen vehicle, but officers were all tied up on more pressing cases. She later worked with St. Cloud officers to recover it.

MINNEAPOLIS — The staff shortage facing the Minneapolis Police Department came into sharp focus for one resident of the city Thursday after her SUV was carjacked. Even after she pinpointed the locations of her vehicle, the MPD didn’t have any spare officers to dispatch to those sites.

“I knew there was a case number already open, so my immediate plan was to just call, and say, ‘Hey, guess what? I got an easy one for you! I know the location’!” Kristin, who has lived in Minneapolis for 20 years, told KARE.

“Dispatch was not super empathetic. It was kind of like, ‘Well, sorry. We’re really busy’ basically. But I’m saying, ‘But I have the address’!”

On Thursday, a relative borrowed Kristin’s 2021 Mazda CX-5 for work. The relative was delivering UPS packages in the Phillips Neighborhood of south Minneapolis when the carjacking took place.

Kristin said she wasn’t totally surprised, given that there have been nearly 500 reported carjacking attacks in the city in 2021, many of them concentrated on the near-south part of the city where her relative was delivering packages.

Her car was equipped with GPS tracking, so Kristin received regular location updates throughout the day.  UPS was also looking for her vehicle because it was filled with undelivered packages.

At one point the car was stopped on West Broadway Avenue on the northside of Minneapolis. It was also stopped on Knox Avenue North, at a spot four blocks away from the MPD Fourth Police Precinct Headquarters.

“I called 9-1-1 every time I received a new location. I said, ‘Hey, guess what? It looks like they just stopped four blocks from the police station. Maybe you guys could go pick them up!’ But it was, ‘We’ll add it to the file’.”

Kristin said dispatchers told her officers were tied up on more pressing, more urgent cases.  What kinds of cases?

“I kind of asked them that. Basically, the answer was, ‘People that are shot, stabbed.’ And if you’re not, you’re probably not going to get a lot of attention,” Kristin remarked.

Hours later the GPS app reported her SUV was at several locations in St. Cloud, including a fast food restaurant there.  She called the St. Cloud Police Department.

“The St. Cloud Police, in a matter of three or four minutes called back. They basically worked with me for the next hour and a half or so, asking, ‘Where’s it now? Where’s it now?’ And, ‘Okay, we got them.’  That’s what it took!”

The St. Cloud P.D. confirmed with the MPD that the vehicle had indeed been reported stolen earlier in the day. At one point they chased Kristin’s stolen Mazda for three miles before losing track of it. But, with her help, they found it again abandoned.

But it had just snowed Thursday night. Officers were able to follow the footprints in the snow to an apartment building a few blocks northwest of downtown St. Cloud. There they arrested a 17-year-old Minneapolis youth, and were holding him on suspicion of fleeing police and possession of stolen property.

At some point it's believed the thieves had run the vehicle into a ditch because the front of the hood was cracked, and there was tall grass stuck to the grill and bumper.

“I was happy to get the car back because I honestly thought we would maybe never see it again.”

On Friday afternoon Kristin’s sister drove her to St. Cloud to recover her SUV from the towing company’s impound lot.  They found it filled with assorted trash, fast food bags and the heavy stench of smoked cannabis or marijuana.

The city’s police department is down by more than 200 officers since the spring of 2020 when the civil unrest, rioting and looting erupted in the city after a MPD officer killed George Floyd.  At least 150 of those officers went on extended workers compensation leaves for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

The city has been working to attract and train replacements, but it has been an uphill battle.

Kristin acknowledged the MPD’s struggles, but also said people need to have assurances when it comes to personal safety.

“I support the Minneapolis police. There’s been a lot of rhetoric over the last year, but I voted to keep the police department in place, I am in 100 percent support of Chief Arradondo and the whole effort,” Kristin explained.

“I feel really bad for the police department, but at some point, there has to be a way to close this gap, so that things like this they can actually address. As a city, you have to feel safe. And it was like, what will they come for?”

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