While the crime rate in Minnesota has steadily fallen over the past decade, one east metro suburb has seen a sharp uptick in property and personal crimes nearly across the board.
Roseville’s overall crime rate jumped nearly 20 percent from 2010 to 2017, according to the Minnesota Uniform Crime Report. Some of the biggest increases were in violent crimes or “crimes against persons,” including cases of rape — which doubled over that period — robberies, up 91 percent, and aggravated assaults, up 74 percent.
Those increases came even as statewide crime rates as a whole remained virtually flat in cases of rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Minnesota’s overall crime rate fell by 12 percent, according to the report.
Roseville Police Chief Rick Mathwig presented the trends this week to the City Council as part of the department’s request for six more officers over the next two years.
“The sky is not falling, but we are trending in an area that is concerning to me as chief and concerning to the citizens of Roseville,” he said.
In an interview, Mathwig declined to say why Roseville may be seeing more crime. But he presented the council with a series of trends that could explain some of the additional 911 calls — including a stretched-thin police force that can’t focus as much as it would like on crime prevention and a boom in commercial construction since the end of the Great Recession.
For example, police have been called to a Walmart Supercenter near Interstate 35W an average of one to two times a day since it opened in 2014, or about 530 times a year, according to department records. It would take the equivalent of a single officer working full-time for nine months to handle the workload of calls coming from that Walmart alone, Mathwig said.
Roseville long has had a relatively high crime rate because its malls, hotels and shopping centers draw so many more workers and visitors during the day than a typical city of its size.
The Roseville Fire Department estimates that the city’s population of 36,000 — the figure on which the crime rate is based — grows to roughly 80,000 people during working hours. Crime rates are based on the number of offenses committed per 100,000 inhabitants.
As the city’s crime rate has increased, the number of cases that the police have been able to resolve, most often by arrest, has fallen. Much of that is because the average caseload for Roseville’s detectives has been climbing annually, jumping by 12 percent over the past three years alone, Mathwig said.
“Based on the data, we’re falling behind,” he said.
Roseville police have an authorized force of 48 officers. Mathwig has asked the City Council to hire three more officers in 2020 and another three in 2021 to get the staffing up to at least 54.
Each officer would cost the city an estimated $80,000 a year in salary, benefits and equipment. But Mathwig said they would enable the department to handle the daily 911 calls along with the hot spots, problem properties and community outreach programs.
The department has shown some success with targeted crime prevention programs. Since 2012, Roseville has received thousands of dollars in state grants to get a better handle on patterns, trends and recurring problems regarding stolen cars. Even as burglary, robbery and other stolen property rates have increased, vehicle thefts in Roseville have fallen by about 15 percent.
“It’s tough when an officer wants to focus on a hot spot or a neighborhood but keeps getting pulled away to answer that next 911 call,” Mathwig said. “We just don’t have the time to devote what we need to solve some of these problems.”