At about 7 a.m. Wednesday, just before officers from 14 Hennepin County law enforcement agencies headed out for a daylong sweep aimed at serving 300 arrest warrants in domestic violence cases, they got a pep talk from a victims’ advocate.
“I thank the Sheriff’s Department for sort of shining a light on domestic assault cases and taking us one step further in our coordinated community response of holding people accountable and keeping victims safe,” said Carol Arthur, executive director of the Domestic Abuse Project.
Seven metro-area women have been killed so far in 2013, allegedly at the hands of a boyfriend or husband. The body of one presumed dead, Mandy Matula, remains missing. In a typical year, Arthur said, there are more than 18,000 domestic-related 911 calls in Minneapolis alone.
The 300 domestic violence arrest warrants that officers attempted to serve Wednesday represent just a fraction of the 18,000 outstanding warrants in Hennepin County, but the daylong sweep offered a revealing glimpse of how difficult it can be to find people and bring them to justice.
With other officers on alert nearby, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Bean knocked on the door of his first stop, in north Minneapolis.
The suspect wasn’t there. The second warrant listed an address that didn’t exist. The third was the home of the victim in the case. And the fourth address had a new tenant.
Bean, who has been doing warrant work for about 12 years, was undaunted. “We’ll just move on to the next address,” he said. “It’s all we can do.”
When it comes to finding the wanted, the work never ends. Warrants remain outstanding until a subject is arrested or a judge withdraws the warrant. Last year, the Sheriff’s Office cleared more than 30,000 warrants, meaning officers either found the wanted individuals or exhausted all paths to do so. A full-time unit of the Sheriff’s Office is devoted to serving warrants every day, and major sweeps are conducted twice a year.
Lisa Kiava, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office, said the success of Wednesday’s sweep cannot be measured strictly by the number of arrests.
Even if no one is arrested, each attempt to serve a warrant allows officers to gather information, cross off invalid addresses and raise awareness. “Just by us being out, shaking the trees, sometimes the people come forward,” Kiava said.
In fact, on Wednesday, warrant clerks received double the number of phone calls from people who had heard of the sweep and were checking on their status, she said.
“You’d be surprised how many folks end up turning themselves in after they hear that you’ve been out … going door to door looking for them,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek.
Bean’s fifth stop of the morning proved more fruitful.
A man stepped out of the home. After officers confirmed who he was, they told him he was under arrest for violating his probation for a gross-misdemeanor DWI. They all went inside and officers waited while he got some clothes, put on shoes and fed his animals.
Each warrant that reached the hands of the officers on Wednesday took several hours to prepare, officials said, including searching databases and monitoring social media sites.
Sweeps such as Wednesday’s serve as a “force-multiplier,” allowing law enforcement agencies to work together, Stanek said, while bringing more attention to the issue of domestic violence.
After a lunch break, Bean and the other officers continued on their sweep. At one apartment building, a woman who had violated probation on a felony financial transaction, tried to run out the back door into an adjoining apartment after her husband answered the door, Bean said. As soon as she saw officers enter the room, she gave up and was apprehended without a struggle.
“While it’s not an everyday occurrence, it is somewhat typical to have someone try to flee on you,” Bean said.
The number of arrests Wednesday was not available at day’s end, in part because arrests made in the next few days as people come forward may be included in the count.
Bean ended the day with two arrests.
“I wish we could say we go out every day and we pull 25 warrants and we get 25 arrests, but it’s just not the reality,” he said. “We go out and we’ll attempt anywhere from 15 to 20 warrants, and hopefully we’ll make maybe three arrests.”