EDINA, Minn. — The Hennepin County Attorney's Office announced Tuesday it will devote two prosecutors specifically to carjackings, in light of an increase in these violent crimes across several municipalities.
One of the prosecutors will focus on juveniles, who make up about 68 percent of carjacking cases referred to the county attorney in 2021, according to data provided by the office. Another prosecutor will focus on the remainder of adult cases.
Civil deputy Lolita Ulloa also said the county attorney's office will put a victim's advocate solely on carjacking cases.
"With this influx of carjackings, kidnappings, auto thefts," Ulloa said, "there's a particular emphasis we know we have to make."
Ulloa unveiled the new policies in front of a packed meeting Tuesday night at the Edina Country Club, where a few hundred people from various cities questioned city and county leaders about their public safety plans. The meeting, which featured some tense question-and-answer moments, was organized by neighbors but drew crime victims and concerned citizens from Minneapolis, Plymouth and other nearby municipalities.
Julie Wicklund, who experienced a home invasion about a week and a half ago, has formed a new crime victim group called "Pain to Power" and addressed the crowd Tuesday night from the podium. Another woman from Edina, who was injured in an attempted carjacking last week, stood beside her.
"This has become such a horrible epidemic," Wicklund said, "and we need to get action."
The victim from Edina, whose name KARE 11 is not sharing, also told the audience that "we've watched two years of an inflating crime rate go through the roof."
"What you see on my face, is the least traumatizing part of what is going on in my body," she said, with the bruises on her eye still visible. "I pray to God that not one more human being has to endure the kind of trauma, the kind of fear."
In Edina specifically, police chief Todd Milburn reported an increase of auto thefts and burglaries in 2021, in addition to last week's carjacking that rattled many residents. According to numbers shared by Edina Police, officers have responded to nine vehicle thefts and 12 residential burglaries in the past month alone.
The chief, along with Mayor Jim Hovland, outlined plans Tuesday night that include extra patrols (with 200 hours of overtime allotted), a mobile pro trailer, more proactive stops on "suspicious vehicles," and better collaboration with neighboring agencies.
In an interview before the meeting, Hovland said that Edina must play "offense and defense," meaning residents should take basic measures like not leaving keys in their cars, whereas the city must offer a robust response.
"We've got extra patrols in place. We're trying to hit the hotspots where we're seeing some repeated activity," Hovland said, adding that he'll meet with other large Twin Cities suburbs later this week in hopes of pooling resources. "I think if we can figure out a way to work together on this thing, we'll have a chance of tampering it down and ending this criminal activity that's taking place, primarily around autos, and auto theft, with mobile criminals."
City officials in Edina are also meeting with business owners in the 50th and France area and announced a new "SafeCam" program, which will allow private residents to voluntarily share their security camera locations with Edina Police.
"People in our neighborhoods, they've been really traumatized by this," Hovland said. "This can help put us on the right path."
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