To combat a rash of recent violent carjackings, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said his department teamed up with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and Minnesota State Patrol in using helicopter surveillance to make more than 40 arrests.
The three-day crackdown last week resulted in 41 felony arrests and the recovery of seven stolen vehicles and five guns, Arradondo said at a Tuesday evening news conference inside City Hall while flanked by Sheriff David Hutchinson.
"We're teaming up to make sure people can live their lives and not get their car stolen in broad daylight by a few bad actors," Hutchinson said.
Arradondo said the helicopter hovering over Minneapolis last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was noticed by many residents and that he wanted to provide an update that it was an intentional strategy and may be used again.
"I know that for some of our residents this was kind of a nuisance to them to have to hear that hovering about, but it was done very intentionally," he said.
"We are not going to turn our backs on our residents, our businesses, our visitors. We're going to be there," Arradondo said. "We hear you in terms of victims. We're going to do all we can to combat this and keep our city safe."
Minneapolis police report the aerial assistance from the State Patrol led to nine misdemeanor arrests and the confiscation of a pipe bomb. Spokesman John Elder said helicopters weren't used to locate stolen vehicles, rather to "support the ground troops" and follow a vehicle if it took off from officers so they didn't have to pursue.
There have been 391 reported carjackings to date in 2020, a 320% increase from last year. The Star Tribune reported that in November, violent carjackings were up 537% compared with the same time last year.
Police say suspects generally approach drivers and start a conversation before stealing purses, cellphones, wallets and vehicles — sometimes at gunpoint.
Hutchinson said there are no formal plans for a similar crackdown in the near future. He added that the aerial surveillance is a tool to avoid car chases. "It's less likely to get people hurt," he said.
"[The city] needs help and they're going to get it from us. Because Hennepin County needs Minneapolis to be safe so Hennepin County is also livable and a good place to visit," he said.
To decrease the likelihood of a carjacking, police advise drivers to park in well-lit areas, be especially aware of surroundings, equip cars with anti-theft devices, lock doors while driving and not stop for stranded strangers.
Using the helicopter came at no cost to the city, Elder said, as the State Patrol did so under mutual aid.
The Minneapolis City Council last month approved Arradondo's request for $500,000 to fund 20 to 40 officers from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and Metro Transit Police to form joint enforcement teams, although the logistics for a formal agreement are still being sorted out. In the meantime, Hutchinson said the Sheriff's Office will assist other agencies "when staff is able and the situation is appropriate."
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751