Crime across Minnesota dipped in 2016, hitting its lowest statewide rate in 50 years.
The numbers, released by state police Thursday, show that a long trend of diminishing crime rates is continuing in Minnesota — even in urban areas — despite high-profile incidents of violence that have fueled concerns that crime could be on the rise.
Factoring in the rate of 10 serious types of crime — known collectively as “index crime” — the state saw a roughly 4 percent decline from 2015, according to the data, which is collected by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and reported to the FBI annually.
Index crimes include violent crimes such as homicide, robbery and sexual assault, along with common property crimes, such as theft and burglary.
Violent crime alone remained static statewide compared with 2015, increasing less than 1 percent, the data showed.
In total, 130,941 incidents were reported in 2016, or 2,372 per every 100,000 residents, about the same rate as in 1966.
Statewide, the number of murders dropped from 130 in 2015 to 100 last year — about a 23 percent decline. Robbery also decreased slightly, while rape and major assaults increased by less than 1 percent from 2015 — significantly lower than the rate of violent crime reported in the 1980s and ’90s.
In Hennepin and Ramsey counties, the state’s most populous, the crime rate has been declining for years.
The index crime rate in Hennepin has dropped about 17 percent since 2009 and nearly 30 percent in Ramsey County over the same period. Neither county saw a significant overall change from 2015 to 2016.
The numbers may buck public perception of rising crime rates and “don’t really reflect the rhetoric that we’re hearing,” said Ebony Ruhland, research director for the University of Minnesota’s Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice.
Forty of the state’s 100 murders in 2016 occurred in Hennepin County while 20 took place in Ramsey County.
Investigators cleared more than half of the Hennepin County murders, and 75 percent in Ramsey County, though the clearance rates could include the solving of murders from previous years.
Sex trafficking focus
The report also reflects an increase in reports of sex trafficking, a new addition to data collection in Minnesota since 2014. In 2016, there were 235 reports of sex trafficking statewide, up from 119 in 2015.
That increase, however, may be more telling of a concerted effort to police the crime than an actual rise in offenses, police officials said.
St. Paul police Cmdr. Ken Sass attributed the increase to better cooperation between law enforcement agencies and a major philosophical shift by police to treating women and girls who are being trafficked as victims rather than as prostitutes.
“So you’re seeing more efficient and better investigations, which is really important, and especially with the Super Bowl coming,” said Sass, who heads the department’s narcotics and human trafficking units. “Prostitution is the oldest profession. We look at the supply and demand side, which is why we do the John stings, as well.”
Sass said the department currently has three detectives assigned to its trafficking unit.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Grant Snyder echoed the sentiment, noting police have made a concerted effort to target these cases in recent years.
“When you look at this statistical increase, that’s really exciting for us to see, because that tells us that people are really starting to work these cases,” said Snyder, who has spoken nationally about human trafficking.
Staff Writer Libor Jany also contributed to this report.