The surge of brazen carjackings that has roiled Minneapolis and St. Paul neighborhoods this year is spreading to the suburbs, with communities including Edina, St. Louis Park, Roseville and Woodbury all reporting cases of robbers commandeering vehicles — often at gunpoint in grocery store and retail parking lots.
Suburban police departments say they are stepping up patrols, offering rewards for information on suspects and sharing intelligence with neighboring agencies to quickly apprehend culprits.
The incidents have been frequent, and often violent. Early Thursday, two juveniles in a vehicle believed to have been stolen during an armed carjacking died after a crash in northeast Minneapolis following a police pursuit. Robbinsdale police had received a report of an armed carjacking Wednesday evening.
Also Thursday, three people were injured and one was hospitalized with serious injuries after a carjacking attempt at 5 p.m. outside the Lunds & Byerlys store on W. 50th Street in Edina. Police have released images of suspects, and the Edina Crime Prevention Fund is offering a $5,000 reward in the case.
"We share residents' concern and frustration with the increase in these types of crimes in our community," said Edina Police Chief Todd Milburn, in a written statement. "We are doing all that we can with agencies across the metro to investigate these crimes and bring those involved to justice. We are hopeful that the reward will help encourage someone out there with information to come forward and work with us."
The Edina Police Department has increased patrols and is paying officers overtime to deter more carjackings and thefts, according to a news release.
Authorities believe the same suspects attempted a carjacking around 3 p.m Thursday at the Lunds & Byerlys on Park Center Boulevard in St. Louis Park. The suspects attempted to wrestle a man out of a vehicle. He sustained minor injuries and the suspects fled.
St. Louis Park police believe the suspects could also be responsible for a robbery in the same Lunds & Byerlys parking lot on Dec. 6, and an attempted carjacking at Bridgewater Bank on Excelsior Boulevard on Nov. 29. The department is also offering a $5,000 reward for information in the cases.
The Roseville Police Department is investigating two armed carjackings this fall in parking lots at a gym and a thrift store. The suspects displayed a firearm and in one of the incidents used a firearm to strike the victim in the head before stealing their car.
"We have not previously seen the carjackings we are now seeing in the suburbs," said Roseville Police Chief Erika Scheider.
These violent encounters are happening during the afternoon and early-evening hours in busy retail parking lots. That boldness is making people uneasy, Scheider said.
Roseville police are increasing patrols and visibility and working with other agencies, because incidents are often connected.
Woodbury police investigated a carjacking in a Target parking lot in November. While it's still an unusual occurrence in the Washington County suburb of 75,000, "it really spooked people," said John Altman with the department.
Maplewood police Lt. Joe Steiner said that suburb had a rash of 13 carjackings in 2020. That number has dropped to four this year.
"We partnered with other local agencies including Ramsey County Sheriff's Office and Woodbury police. We increased our intelligence gathering and sharing amongst agencies," Steiner said. "We did identify quite a few offenders who were involved in multiple carjackings. Arrests were made and charges were filed."
Steiner said those efforts will continue in an effort to crack down on what he described as a crime of opportunity that instills fear in the community.
"Carjackings are robberies," Steiner said. "It's a crime of violence. That's what makes it so terrifying."