More than half of Minnesotans say crime has increased in their community in the past few years, although an overwhelming majority haven't felt personally afraid in the last year, according to a Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll.
On a personal level, 8 in 10 respondents said there wasn't a time in the past year when they feared for their safety in their neighborhood. Two in 10 said they had been fearful or felt threatened.
According to the 2021 Uniform Crime Report released in August by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, violent crime rose 22% last year over 2020. Property crime and burglary showed a slight drop.
Andrew Fitts, 36, described himself as a Republican who leans independent and plans to vote for GOP nominee and former state Sen. Scott Jensen over DFL Gov. Tim Walz. The Hopkins resident said crime has gone up, but he's not fearful at home.
"Hopkins is still safe and most of the suburbs are, but I go downtown [Minneapolis] way way less than I did maybe four, five years ago," Fitts said, adding that he'll go there for events such as concerts or sports when crowds make him feel safer.
The poll surveyed 800 likely voters between Sept. 12-14, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
On the question of the crime rate, Republicans were more likely to say crime had increased. Nearly 7 of 10 respondents who voted for former President Donald Trump said crime went up in their community. Among supporters of Democratic President Joe Biden, only 4 in 10 believe crime has increased.
Fitts ranks the economy as his top issue, followed by crime. He said he's disappointed in how Walz handled the riots after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May 2020. "I thought he really allowed a lot of stuff to go on that was unacceptable," he said.
Four former Minneapolis officers have been convicted of crimes in Floyd's death. The murder, recorded on bystander cellphones, led to days of unrest. The Minneapolis Police Department's Third Precinct was burned by protesters who vandalized and looted businesses across the Twin Cities.
David O'Neill, a 40-year-old white, married software engineer and father of four who lives in Shoreview, was among the nearly half of likely voters who believe crime in his community has stayed about the same. "We live in a neighborhood that is safe," he said.
And he hasn't feared that someone might threaten or attack him near his home. "I know theoretically the crime rates have gone up, but I also know that I don't have a lot of risk factors."
O'Neill said he's voting for Walz even though he's a conservative at heart. He said he won't vote for Republicans because of their support for Trump's false claims of election fraud.
"Keeping society and government functioning is far more essential than any other policy," O'Neill said. He added that he has a "very strong aversion" to candidates with messages intended to rile emotions.
"In my mind, the Republicans these days are not conserving so much of what I value in America," he said, adding that he values the "peaceful transfer of power."
Republicans in statewide races, including Jensen and Attorney General nominee Jim Schultz, have made crime fighting a focus. The governor and DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison are unwilling to cede the issue, saying they're fighting crime while working to change a police culture that has historically been aggressive with nonwhite and poorer people.
Bill Middlecamp, a 69-year-old retiree and DFLer in Apple Valley, said crime had gone up, but he's not fearful. "So many people are using anger as a political tool and creating hate as something you can rally around," he said.
Middlecamp thinks Walz has the right approach in trying to depoliticize crime. "In that way he's trying to rebuild respect for authority, which we need," Middlecamp said.
The poll found people in the metro and people of color were more likely to say they were afraid of being threatened or attacked in the past year.
Residents of the state's two most populous counties, Hennepin and Ramsey, reported being slightly more fearful than respondents in the rest of the state.
Similarly, almost 1 in 4 nonwhite respondents reported feeling fearful in their neighborhoods. Among white respondents, barely 1 in 6 said they'd been concerned about personal safety.