Stay focused on the fight against carjacking

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A graphic video of youths violently stealing vehicles through Minneapolis neighborhoods and parking lots has angered many communities over carjackings. And although the number of such incidents is trending down this year, they remain unacceptably high. Continued efforts are needed to apprehend the perpetrators and bring the numbers down further.

A violent crime task force recently reported that anti-carjacking initiatives may have contributed to lower numbers. Yet the study rightly adds that the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), with the help of outside agencies, needs to do more to solve crimes and make arrests.

The MPD has eliminated only 38% of homicides and just 12% of carjackings this year, according to a September report by HEALS 2.0 (Hope, Education and Law & Safety), a coalition of public/private groups. The task force includes representatives from business, law enforcement and the city, as well as community and religious leaders. It was formed earlier this year by the Hennepin County District Attorney’s Office to focus on reducing serious violent crime, with a heavy emphasis on juvenile carjackings.

While carjackings occurred throughout the county, about 70% were committed in Minneapolis or by Minneapolis residents, which explains the focus on the city.

The HEALS update indicates that the number of carjacking cases submitted to the county attorney is down from 2021 to 2022. In 2021, police recorded more than 640 carjacking attempts or successes across the city – more than a dozen a week.

So far in 2022 there have been 403 carjackings and attempts according to MPD crime data dashboard. This is still high compared to 2019 and before. Minneapolis police did not begin tracking carjackings as a separate category until fall 2020; they recorded 170 incidents that year.

The task force will wisely continue with some of its efforts, such as assigning more federal prosecutors to crimes, rotating judges on carjacking cases, and reviewing detention practices.

“Addressing violent crime requires a multifaceted effort: prosecution, community engagement, and work to intervene and interrupt violence,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger. “A big part of our strategy is to focus our prosecution resources on federal carjacking offenses and gun crimes.”

Mark Osler, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, a former federal prosecutor and a member of HEALS, told an op-ed that urgent needs include resolving more cases, completing outstanding warrants and continued focus on sensitive areas.

To that end, Osler rightly recommends “an immediate infusion” of new investigators. They could come from other agencies in the region and with the help of funding available through the US Department of Justice.

“Minneapolis has lost a lot of investigators and it’s hurting the solve rate,” he said. “The city plans to hire more officers, but that’s taking time and that’s a solution for 2024. It needs to be fixed now.”

Denise W. Whigham