Metro crime trends mirror national pictureby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Violent crime in the U.S. increased slightly between 2005 to 2006, while the number of property crimes went down, according to the latest crime reports collected by the FBI. Police blame much of the violence on the availability of guns and a rise in juvenile crime. And they say crime trends in Minneapolis, and to some extent St. Paul, can be attributed to the same factors: guns and young people.
Minneapolis, Minn. — The amount of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault in the U.S. increased just over one percent from 2005 to 2006. Of these violent crimes, robbery was the one most likely to increase in U.S. cities.
On average, U.S. cities of 100,000 people or more, saw an increase of six percent in the number of robberies. Minneapolis and St. Paul also saw increases in robberies. St. Paul registered nine percent more robberies in 2006 than in 2005. Minneapolis saw a rise of 17 percent.
These latest crime numbers show a change in the nature of the kinds of crime committed in U.S. cities, according to Chuck Wexler, executive director of The Police Executive Research Forum based in Washington D.C. The group is made up of police executives from the largest city, county and state law enforcement agencies.
Wexler, who has worked as a consultant for Minneapolis police, says the violence is often a combination of young people and guns.
"I think the street level drug dealer isn't as prominent as they used to be. And I think that you still have a critical mass out there who wants to commit crime and they're going to do it. And unfortunately, the availability of guns combined with a large bump up in the juvenile population is pushing people to commit street crimes in significantly higher levels," he says.
Cities with populations of one million or more saw an average increase of nearly seven percent in the amount of homicides between 2005 and 2006. Minneapolis, with a population of around 376,000 went from 47 killings in 2005 to 57 in 2006 - an increase of over 20 percent. St. Paul's homicide numbers went down from 24 in 2005 to 17 in 2006.
While violent crimes like homicide grab headlines, property crimes are far more common and get less attention. Those offenses, which include burglary, larceny and auto theft decreased in the U.S. by nearly three percent between 2005 and 2006. In St. Paul, property crime went down nearly 12 percent, but stayed just about even in Minneapolis.
Property crimes are sometimes called "livability crimes". Roberta Englund, the executive director of the Folwell Neighborhood Association in north Minneapolis says such crimes hit everyone.
"All property crime affects people singularly and collectively everyday as they come and go from their homes, as they go to work, as they go to school, as they try to live in their neighborhood."
The prevalence of these types of crimes represent a lack of investment, according to Englund. In particular, arson - a property crime not included in the FBI's category - actually went up nationwide nearly two percent. Englund says arson has been a problem on the northside because of the number of boarded and vacant properties.
"We've had houses explode. We've had houses burn, directly related to copper theft...vacant and boarded in some cases. The number of foreclosures and empty houses on the northside make them prime targets."
So far this year, crime crime numbers for Minneapolis are showing improvement over 2006. Violent crime citywide is down over 15 percent. Halfway through the year, the city has registered 24 homicides, less than half of last year's total.
- All Things Considered, 06/04/2007, 5:50 p.m.