In "On crime, a long way to go and no help from the state" (Opinion Exchange, Sept. 22), it's asserted that the DFL-controlled Legislature is "missing in action" when it comes to responding to crime. This statement is either ignorant or intentionally misleading, as any casual observer of the 2023 session would know that the House and Senate DFL took historic and comprehensive action to combat crime across Minnesota and to increase public safety for all Minnesotans regardless of their ZIP code.
The reduction in violent crime by 8.6% in 2022 is a remarkable development and should not be understated. The legislation that was passed in 2023 will continue to support that trend for years to come. The public safety package passed includes gun violence prevention measures, funding to assist crime victims, juvenile justice reform, measures to increase rehabilitation and reduce recidivism, officer recruitment initiatives, measures to eliminate racial disparities and so much more.
We took strong action to prevent and solve crime with increased funding to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to help local jurisdictions respond to and investigate crime. We provided funding for more forensic scientists at the BCA to reduce evidence processing backlogs. These investments will help to ensure that people who commit crimes are held accountable in a timely fashion.
We listened to the concerns of Minnesotans and addressed the increase in carjackings and catalytic converter thefts by establishing new crimes for both. We also took action on the rise of organized retail theft and crimes motivated by bias. Lastly, we increased criminal penalties for those selling fentanyl and now require first responders and law enforcement to carry Narcan.
This is on top of extensive legislation passed in the health and human service realm including funding for treatment. We are tackling the opioid epidemic head-on and are fighting to save as many lives as we can.
In 2022, gun violence became the leading cause of death for children in the U.S. In response to this horrific statistic, the DFL passed a number of violence prevention measures to reduce gun violence across the state. We expanded criminal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of those who are prohibited from having them. We also established a red flag law which will provide a new, effective tool for law enforcement and family members to petition the court to temporarily remove firearms from someone who has proven to be a threat to themselves or others.
The DFL also recognizes that we need to take a holistic approach to have the greatest impact possible on public safety. That is why we coupled these provisions with historic investments in crime victim funding, juvenile justice, community-based violence prevention efforts, rehabilitative services, probation services and law enforcement recruitment efforts.
We passed $70 million for violence prevention and intervention efforts, overhauled our state's complicated probation system (which was supported by every county in the state) and invested more for crime victim services, just to name a few. Our holistic response to public safety will make Minnesota safer while working to break cycles of crime and violence.
Supporting law enforcement officers is an integral pillar of our efforts to create a safer Minnesota. Throughout the session we heard that the greatest problem facing every agency is the difficulty of recruiting new officers. In response, we provided new funding for law enforcement education and training so that agencies can recruit quality candidates to serve their communities. In addition to the funding in the public safety package, the DFL provided $300 million in direct local aid for public safety so every local agency in the state has the resources they need to fully support their officers now.
The increase in crime we've seen in Minnesota and across the nation occurred during the pandemic. The DFL-controlled Legislature recognized the impact this was having on our state and modernized our justice system by investments in preventing crime, rehabilitation and everything in between. Already we are seeing positive trends, though it will be several years before we see the impact of our efforts. We are not done. We look forward to continuing our important work of keeping Minnesotans safe.
Kelly Moller, DFL-Shoreview, is a member of the Minnesota House. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, is a member of the Minnesota Senate.