Violent crimes reported by mid-year in Minneapolis have dropped to their lowest point in a decade, and every category of crime except larceny has fallen from last year, statistics show.
While the drop in crime parallels what's happening in cities nationwide, local leaders who gathered in north Minneapolis Monday credited better policing and a crackdown on gun-toting felons for reducing murders, aggravated assaults, rapes and robberies.
Five years ago, violent crime surged in Minneapolis to 3,179 incidents at midyear. That same year, Mayor R.T. Rybak hired Tim Dolan as his police chief. Violent crimes reported this year were down to 1,761 for the same period.
"It was a very hot summer in 2006 and it's a very hot summer today, but the world feels totally different between then and now," Rybak said.
Records show that so far this year violent crime fell 15 percent from the first six months of last year. Larcenies rose 4 percent to 5,541, due in part to car break-ins by thieves looking for GPS devices, phones and laptop computers.
Dolan said credit for good news on crime rates goes to the department's officers and to the precinct inspectors, who spot crime trends and then quickly adapt. He also credited Project Exile, a city-federal partnership run for the past year in Minneapolis that targets convicted felons who carry guns. Fifteen people have been netted by Project Exile so far, according to Jeanne Cooney, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones. "What we're hearing is that the word is definitely out there, that you do not want to be caught with an illegal gun in Minneapolis," Cooney said.
Crime hasn't fallen in every neighborhood, though. Violent crime in the first six months of this year is down 23 percent on the North Side, but it's up slightly in the Willard-Hay neighborhood, home to Ishmael Israel, the interim director of the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council.
"The feeling in the neighborhood is that the times are desperate," said Israel. Even minor crimes can make people feel uneasy, he added.
"My lawnmower was stolen, just after the tornado," said Israel. "Garages are broken into. Murders may be down, but property theft is up."
"There are still some neighborhoods where the sound of gunfire is an all too frequent occurrence, and for folks in those neighborhoods the fact that crime is at 40-year lows doesn't correspond with their experience," said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass. "I wouldn't get too overconfident because it's not rosy for everybody."
Crime rates have declined across the nation for years now, a trend that Fox attributes to higher incarceration rates, changes in police strategy that target the worst areas, surveillance technology and an aging population less prone to commit crimes.
Also worth noting: Fox predicted that this week's hot weather in Minneapolis wouldn't cause a spike in crime.
"At a certain point it's so oppressively hot even criminals don't have the energy," he said.
Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747