City officials say violent crime in the city increased slightly 6 percent in 2012 over the previous year, when crime was at its lowest in decades.
Newly appointed police chief Janee Harteau says crime got an early start a year ago because of the short winter. However, she said timely police work and help from the public helped keep the numbers from worsening.
The city announced year-end crime statistics at the Minneapolis Police Fifth Precinct building, a block away from the intersection of Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street. The precinct covers central and southwest Minneapolis, including the chain of lakes area and Uptown. The precinct is also where violent crime dropped more sharply than in any other part of the city.
Assistant police chief Matt Clark was commander of Fifth Precinct in 2012, and touted the double-digit drop in overall violent crime there.
"It's almost 18 percent. Part of that is due to analyzing crime," Clark said. "Looking at our statistics and taking our resources and putting them in the spots where they are most needed."
One of those crime hot spots was an area of several blocks in the Stevens Square neighborhood just outside of downtown. After increasing police presence in the area in 2012, both overall violent crime and gun crime dropped by half from the previous year, Clark said. He said the changes did not come solely from police work, and that members of neighborhood groups helped officers locate some of the problem areas.
Bryan Anderson, chair of the Stevens Square Neighborhood Association, said the collaboration between community groups and the department has reaped some positive results.
"We have statistics from January through October of 2012 and robberies and aggravated assaults were both down over 50 percent in Stevens Square and Loring Heights neighborhoods," Anderson said. "Rape was down 33 percent."
Yet violent crime last year increased in both downtown and north Minneapolis. Police officials did not highlight the north side statistics, and have not made the final data available on the department's website. When asked about north side crime, Harteau said one thing she wants is for more police officer patrol walks. She said when she walked a beat 20 years ago, people felt comfortable talking to her about what was going on in the neighborhood.
"There's people out there that have information. We still have three-year-old Terrell Mayes and we still haven't caught that killer," Harteau said. "Anybody who's interviewed me and has looked at my desk — his picture sits on my desk. So, I look at that every day."
Terrell Mayes Jr. was killed by a bullet in his north Minneapolis home just after Christmas 2011. In 2012, three homicide victims in Minneapolis were age 5 and younger. Suspects have been arrested and charged in all three cases. Two teenage boys were also killed last year.
An unofficial tally shows that police have closed a little more than 70 percent of last year's homicide cases — that's the same closure rate as 2011. A closed case is one that results in a complaint filed by the Hennepin County Attorney's office or is determined to be a justified killing. And 30 of the 42 killings in 2012 were committed with firearms.
Harteau said the police department will continue to focus on how violent criminals are obtaining firearms, with efforts to stop that. Officers recovered 658 guns from crime scenes and in traffic stops in the city last year which is an increase of 27.5 percent over 2011.