Dakota County's totals of felony charges increase for first time in 7 years

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER
  • Star Tribune
  • February 10, 2012 - 7:44 PM

The number of felony crimes charged in Dakota County increased in 2011, reaching its highest point since 2008 and reversing a six-year decline.

Statistics released last week by the county attorney's office show that the number of felony charges spiked 17.2 percent, with 1,714 adults charged, compared with 1,464 in 2010. All but two of the county's 12 cities and jurisdictions saw increases.

Violent crimes charged, such as murder, attempted murder, robbery, sex assaults and criminal vehicular homicide, rose 10.6 percent, from 576 to 637, including three people charged with murder or manslaughter.

Robert M. Thomas Sr., 46, was charged in late February with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the Jan. 23 shooting death of James E. Koenig, 38, of Burnsville. Thomas pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced in October to 48 months in prison.

Derrick Dahl, 22, was charged with manslaughter in July for allegedly shooting Benjamin A. Hanson of Welch, Minn.

Dennis Rivers, 28, was charged in April with third-degree murder for allegedly supplying the narcotics that caused his fiancée, Heidi Hanson, 46, to die of an overdose in September 2010.

Those two cases are still pending.

The Dakota County Attorney's office said drug-related offenses continued to be the largest category of cases charged. The number of defendants charged with drug crimes, 403, represents about 24 percent of the entire felony caseload of the county attorney's office. In 2010, 395 adults were charged with felony drug crimes.

County Attorney Jim Backstrom said that although meth continued to be the No. 1 drug involved in criminal charges in 2011 in Dakota County, the number of defendants charged with that drug decreased slightly, from 168 to 156.

Cocaine charges stayed steady at 88 and marijuana-related charges slipped from 105 to 102. But heroin-related charges jumped from 21 to 39, nearly an 86 percent increase, and charges related to prescription drugs went from 57 to 79, a 38.6 percent increase.

Fifty-eight people were charged with felony domestic violence crimes in 2011, a slight drop from 61 in 2010. Total felony assault charges, including domestic assault, increased from 203 to 237. Felony sex-related charges increased slightly from 152 in 2010 to 157 last year. Dangerous weapons charges increased from 21 to 40; robbery charges increased from 53 to 62, and terroristic threats charges stayed the same at 106.

Said Backstrom, "It is important to keep in mind that despite slight increases in violent crime charges in the past two years, our violent crime rate is statistically quite low for the size of our county. Dakota County remains a safe community."

To earn a felony drunken driving charge, a driver must accumulate more than three DWIs in 10 years. There were 50 of those charges in 2011, an increase of 13 from the previous year.

For the fourth consecutive year, statewide deaths in motor-vehicle crashes declined: 365 were killed in 2011 compared to 415 in 2010. In Dakota County, 16 people died; four were considered alcohol-related. Twenty-one people died in 2010, of which about 14 percent were alcohol-related, authorities said.

Property crime charges were up 18.9 percent, from 811 to 965 people charged.

The numbers refer only to adult prosecutions.

Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284

© 2018 Star Tribune