Felony cases decrease for 2nd year in Dakota County

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 15, 2014 - 2:55 PM

Drug cases remained the biggest single category, but their numbers were down, too.

The number of adult felony-level prosecutions in Dakota County dropped for the second consecutive year in 2013, with decreases coming in all manner of crimes except murder, attempted murder and manslaughter.

Nine adults were charged last year — the same number as in 2012 — with murder, attempted murder and manslaughter involving five victims. In 2012, the nine adults charged involved four victims.

Felony drunken driving charges decreased from 35 in 2012 to 31 in 2013, the County Attorney’s office said. The number of deaths resulting from motor vehicle crashes stayed basically steady with 18 in 2013 compared with 19 in 2012. Authorities estimated that 23 percent of the 2013 fatal crashes were alcohol-related.

An offender is charged with felony drunken driving if he or she has three or more previous convictions in the past 10 years or has been previously convicted of felony drunken driving.

While drug-related prosecutions make up the bulk of cases charged, those, too, decreased, from 389 cases in 2012 to 350 last year. The County Attorney’s office said drug-related cases represent approximately 23 percent of its felony caseload.

And while the number of cases decreased, County Attorney Jim Backstrom said the amount of drugs seized increased significantly.

Meth-related prosecutions outpaced any other drug-related case by more than double. In 2013, 148 people were charged with meth-related offenses. One case in Burnsville involved the seizure of 12 pounds of meth, along with handguns and cash.

Marijuana violations resulted in 68 people being charged, compared with 72 in 2012. In an Inver Grove Heights case, more than 56 pounds of pot was found.

Prescription drugs accounted for 54 people being charged in 2013; cocaine involved 37 people and heroin 25. One of the largest heroin busts in Dakota County last year was in Apple Valley and involved more than 2 pounds of the opiate.

Backstrom praised the work of the Dakota County Drug Task Force, saying the collaboration of agencies and officers is “extremely effective in combating illegal drug activity … and vital in getting illegal drugs off our streets.”

Eleven people were referred last year to Dakota County’s Adult Drug Court, bringing the total number in the program to 34. Forty offenders have graduated from Drug Court since September 2008.

In the overall category of crimes of violence, the numbers decreased to 421 people charged with 621 offenses in 2013 compared with 552 people charged with 712 offenses in 2012. Domestic strangulation decreased from 85 in 2012 to 63 in 2013. Property crimes decreased from 641 in 2012 to 631 last year. Financial and white-collar crimes decreased from eight in 2012 to six in 2013.

Among the county’s 11 cities and the area patrolled by the Sheriff’s Office, four increased, while eight decreased in the number of felony prosecutions.

Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284

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