Mayor Rybak, Prosecutors, Law Enforcement Announce Drop in Gun Violence in Wake of Unprecedented Joint Initiative to Combat It

Since July, collaboration between prosecutors and law enforcement leads to indictment, conviction of key violent offenders — and 23% drop in use of guns in violent crime

December 1, 2010 (MINNEAPOLIS) — Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, along with United States Attorney B. Todd Jones, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan and Special Agent in Charge B.J. Zapor of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, today announced that the joint initiative to fight gun crime in Minneapolis, announced last July 22, has resulted in the indictment and conviction of key violent offenders, as well as a 23% drop in the use of guns in violent crime in Minneapolis.

On July 22, they announced Project Minneapolis Exile, an unprecedented collaboration between law enforcement and prosecution at all levels to get off the street and prosecute to the fullest extent possible the young-adult violent criminals, many of them repeat offenders with long criminal histories, who were heavily responsible for a surge in gun violence during the first half of 2010.

Since then, federal and county prosecutors have been meeting regularly with each other and with Minneapolis and federal law-enforcement officers to review all pending gun-crime cases and determine whether state or federal court offers the best chance of conviction and the toughest sentence.

As a result, in the four months since the initiative began, the Hennepin County Attorney’s office has charged 75 dangerous gun and knife cases, a rate about 50% higher than the 200 cases charged per year on average. Among the repeat offenders with long histories of involvement in violent crime against whom the Hennepin County Attorney’s office has recently won convictions with significant sentences are Martel Einfeldt, Joshua Jones and Paris Patton.

In addition, the United States Attorney’s office has charged an additional eight of the “worst of the worst” violent criminal offenders with offenses that if convicted, could land most of them in prison with 15-year minimum sentences.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said, “We are working closely with law enforcement, probation and our federal partners to make sure that we are getting the maximum available penalties for gun offenders. We are seeing great success from our increased focus and prioritization of gun crimes — yet we understand that for the victims of these terrible offenses, one crime is too many.”

U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said, “In the last four months, we have indicted eight known criminals on federal gun charges and have a number of additional cases under investigation. Almost all of these criminals are facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison. Removing these individuals from the streets, in combination with those being prosecuted by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, will go a long way toward continuing to ensure that Minneapolis is a safer community for all of us.”

County Attorney Freeman continued, “What’s new in the last four months is that the feds have stepped up to the plate in Minneapolis, more so than almost any other jurisdiction around the country.”

On the law-enforcement side, Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan announced that in the last four months, the number of violent crimes committed with guns in Minneapolis has decreased by 23% over the previous four months. In addition, the numbers of robberies committed with guns has decreased by 28%. Dolan also showed that successful interventions like increased traffic stops in designated hot spots around Minneapolis has brought down gun crime in those locations by anywhere from 33% to 54% in the same four-month period.

In addition, Chief Dolan and Mayor Rybak noted that after a spike in high-profile crimes earlier in the year, violent crime overall in Minneapolis in 2010 is actually down 2% over the same time in 2009 — and violent crime in 2009 was at a 27-year low.

Chief Dolan attributed the drop in gun crime to doubling the number of investigators assigned to gun cases, and to the evidence-based predictive analysis that has become the hallmark of the Minneapolis Police Department. “We look on a weekly basis not only at where crimes have been committed, but where they are likely to be committed and by whom, then we target resources strategically on those areas and individuals,” Chief Dolan said.

“The best crime-fighting strategy is keeping a crime from being committed in the first place,” added Mayor Rybak.

Although Chief Dolan hesitated to draw a direct correlation between the announcement of the Project Minneapolis Exile initiative to combat gun violence back in July and the significant drop in gun violence since then, he did note that the drop “coincides” with the announcement of the initiative.

“Our goal back in July was to instill fear in individuals using guns, including the fear of prosecution,” he said. “Since then, the numbers of violent crimes committed with guns since then have been unusually low.” He continued: “When you take 10-20 people off the street who have been very, very active with guns, it does make a difference. We are taking the right people off the street.”

“People we kept seeing again and again” in the criminal-justice system “are now off the street,” Freeman agreed.

Special Agent B.J. Zapor of ATF specified that each arrest in a gun crime not only takes that offender off the street, but “puts heat on other violent offenders.”  He added that his agency is focused on tracing the origin of guns that have been used in crimes.

Mayor Rybak compared the joint focus on combating gun crime this year to the comprehensive youth-violence prevention initiative that the City and many partners began several years back. When at that time, there was a spike in violent crime, the City pulled together partners to analyze data and realized that violent crime was being driven by juveniles. As a result, they began the youth-violence prevention initiative, which has led to double-digit decreases in juvenile violence each year, including 2010.

Similarly, Mayor Rybak said, evidence-based policing and data-driven analysis led law enforcement and prosecutors this year to the conclusion that the source of the spike in violent crime in early 2010 was a relatively small number of young adults who had easy access to guns and drugs and who often already had long criminal histories. Since then, they have strategically coordinated their efforts on this group.

Indeed, the Mayor attributed part of the success in fighting gun crime in 2010 to the success of the youth-violence prevention initiative. As a result of the initiative’s success, “the feeding grounds for violent offenders is now smaller.”

Of the success in driving down gun crimes in Minneapolis in the second half of this year, Mayor Rybak said, “It’s a start, but it’s still only a start,” acknowledging that despite this success, there have been recent gun crimes that have shocked the community. “Anytime a gun crime is a committed, it’s a sign that we need to do more.”

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