Reader Exercise: How Would You Fund Public Safety?

We invite you to examine what we have summarized here as part of an anonymous survey indicating what you would prioritize as public safety spending decisions if you were in charge of a hypothetical $200 million budget (which is based roughly on what the Minneapolis police department receives).

Please take the first part of the survey (four quick questions) then you will be returned here to review some information and finish the last question of the survey. This is an informal, experimental approach to gathering information that we will share with readers in a future synopsis. There is no right or wrong; we want to get a pulse of the thinking of our readers to help inform future stories.


A Few Details: Bullets and Human Lives

A night club argument in downtown Minneapolis in May turned into a gun fight between two that killed the other suspect and a bystander, and wounded eight. A Bloomington suspect has been arrested. Within a 24 hour period, four other gun incidents led to three people being wounded and another one dying.

In May, three children were shot within a matter of days in North Minneapolis by stray bullets. Thus far, no suspects have been arrested. Trinity Smith, 9, was at a birthday party in Minneapolis when a stray bullet struck her; she died 12 days later. Ladavionne Garrett Jr. is a 10-year-old boy from St. Cloud who has been recovering from a stray bullet while visiting his grandmother. Noted anti-violence activist K.G. Wilson, had said, “I’m frustrated, I’m tired, I’m fed up. Those that are angry, and have retaliation, and they finally see somebody that they heard or know had something to do with a shooting — when they see them, another shooting takes place.” A week later, Wilson’s 6-year-old granddaughter, Aniya Allen, was shot by a stray bullet and died two days later.

As of May 23, 2021, there were 32 homicides in the city; 14 in South Minneapolis, nine in North Minneapolis, five downtown, two in Northeast, two in Southwest. Additionally, Winston Smith Jr. was fatally shot in Minneapolis June 3 after U.S. Marshals tried to arrest him for an outstanding warrant. Law enforcement personnel erroneously reported to media that he was a murder suspect.

According to a January 2021 story by MPR, in 2020 more than 550 people were wounded in Minneapolis by gunfire, including 82 who were fatally shot. More than 80 percent of shooting victims were Black; 62 percent of people wounded or fatally shot were residents of Minneapolis. In addition, George Floyd and Dolal Idd were among those killed by police.

Gun violence is a trend that has been growing for a few years. In 2019, 48 people in Minneapolis died from homicide, a 55 percent increase compared to the previous year. Thirty nine of these victims died from gunshot wounds. In addition, Mario Benjamin and Chaisher Fong Vue were shot to death by Minneapolis police. For comparison, St. Paul saw homicides double between 2018 and 2019. Thirty people were killed in 2019. In addition, Ronald Kerry Davis was fatally shot by a St. Paul police officer.

Although gun violence is up, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) has seized 100 fewer guns this year — around 300 guns in all. City Council members are asking where the guns are coming from — gun dealers, gun shows, gun stores? Reports of guns stolen out of cars is up by 130 percent, according to a police department official.

According to the MPD, by mid-May there had been 185 people shot in Minneapolis. In St. Paul, homicides also are outpacing last year. This is a trend in many cities around the U.S. More than 19,000 people were killed in shootings and firearm-related incidents in 2020. That’s the highest death toll in over 20 years, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA).

Nationally, there was a spike of gun sales in 2020, which experts attribute to pandemic fears. Gun violence can be provoked by mental health issues, financial stress, gang activity, lack of social services.



Current Statistics on Homicide in Minneapolis (as of June 13, 2021)

Below is an example of the Minneapolis Police Department dashboard on homicide. (Note: we are only half-way through June so those numbers do not reflect a full month.)

The data does not include the prevalence of drug and alcohol-induced fatalities, such as two recent incidents in Minneapolis in which impaired drivers killed pedestrians — a protester on June 13 and a man leaving work downtown who was hit by a driver released after nine days from a 13-month sentence for fleeing police, assault, and driving while intoxicated in Beltrami County.


Overall, larceny is the most common crime (theft of personal property), followed by aggravated assault (threatening someone with a weapon or other bodily harm). Burglary is entering property with intent to steal (but not cause bodily harm).

The Minneapolis police violent crime investigation unit usually solves about 50 percent of homicide cases. Since many of these cases involve Black families, trust further erodes faith in the police to prevent and solve crimes. This is especially true when arrests and killings are the result of low-level offenses.

Additionally, investigations stall because people are afraid to come forward with information or they do not want to “snitch.”  The MPD reports it is short-staffed because many officers retired in 2020 or are on disability from post-traumatic stress disorder. 


Aggravated Assault Between Household Members

Rape, and domestic aggravated assault, which involves threatening a household member, are more prevalent violent crimes than homicide.

Twenty-eight women, children and men died of violence inflicted by their partners in 2020. The oldest was a 72-year-old woman. The youngest were three children under the age of 2. Four were pregnant. Approximately half were shot to death.

As we reported as part of our coverage of the Missing the Murdered Indigenous Relatives issue, the budget proposal presented by Gov. Walz to the legislature includes $500,000 annually to establish and maintain an office dedicated to preventing and ending the targeting of Indigenous women, children, and two-spirit people (which tends to be underestimated in data reports). The budget also suggests funding of $2.5 million to combat sex trafficking (which is not tracked in this data).



Incidences of Reported Rape


Coming: We will be exploring the effectiveness of crime prevention options such as mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, gun legislation, trauma healing, police reform efforts, reduction of gang violence programs, and more.


Resources

  • To share information regarding crimes: CrimeStoppers, (800) 222-TIPS (8477)
  • Emergency intervention for adults experiencing an emotional crisis: Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies (COPE), (612) 596-1223.
  • Minnesota Warmline provides peer-to-peer approach to mental health recovery, support, and wellness, by specialists with first-hand experience living with a mental health condition. 651-288-0400, text “Support” to 85511, or visit mentalhealthmn.org/support/minnesota-warmline.

Related Stories

Conversation with Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan About Public Safety