Violent crime surged in suburban Hennepin County in the first half of 2015, taking a much larger jump outside the city of Minneapolis, according to new statistics.

Sheriff's department numbers show a 27 percent increase in violent crime in the outskirts of Hennepin County, compared to a 2.5 percent increase in Minneapolis alone. Violent crime was up 8 percent for the entire county; Minneapolis accounted for three-quarters of reported violent crimes.

Sheriff Rich Stanek attributed the suburban increase to the diversification of the county's population, which he said has put immigrants who may be more vulnerable to crime in more cities outside Minneapolis. He said law enforcement needs to build stronger relationships with those groups.

Homicide was the exception within the violent crime category, surging 37 percent in Minneapolis, logging 26 deaths in the city for the first six months of the year. The number of suburban homicides dropped from four to three in the same period. Including rape, robbery and aggravated assault, crime grew at a faster rate outside Minneapolis than in the city in the year's first six months.

Offsetting the rise in violent crime, property crimes dropped by 5 percent so far this year, the sheriff's office said. Burglary and theft were both down.

Although numbers for comparison haven't been released publicly, Stanek said the metro area remains relatively safe compared to other large cities. "I know that because we've been talking with our colleagues across the country," he said.

There have been crime-fighting successes.

Stanek's department highlighted a 54 percent increase in the seizure of illegal firearms by a violent offender task force in the first half of 2015. He attributed that to more such guns on the streets and a targeting of violent offenders with local departments.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438