Mpls. police, mayor say they'll focus on juvenile offenders to curb robberies, carjacking

A police officer stands on a podium.
Incoming interim Minneapolis police Chief Amelia Huffman unveils the first major crime fighting initiative on Thursday that she would implement ahead of taking charge of the agency in mid-January. Mayor Jacob Frey said the city needed to address crime.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and incoming interim police Chief Amelia Huffman unveiled their first major public safety initiative on Thursday, saying they plan to redouble efforts to reduce carjacking and robberies. 

“These carjackings, let’s be real, they are violent, they are dangerous, people are terrified by them, and they need to stop,” Frey said at a press conference at Shiloh Temple International Ministries, a congregation on West Broadway Avenue in north Minneapolis. 

The mayor was joined by the MPD deputy chief he named to serve as interim chief when Medaria Arradondo retires in January. Arradondo did not attend the press conference.

Huffman said that investigators and analysts believe repeat juvenile offenders are involved to a large degree. She said the department had identified nearly 40 minors with three or more arrests for robberies and other serious crimes, and more than half had five arrests. 

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Huffman said although perpetrators needed to be held accountable, both she and Frey said the criminal justice system was not the only way to go. 

“These young people who are so at risk are our children, the future of our city, and we collectively need to do right by them and their families through just community-oriented responses to what we see happening,” Huffman said. “And those who are being harmed are also our families, our neighbors, our friends, our employees, hardworking people in the city of Minneapolis.” 

Frey and Huffman did not blame judges or juvenile justice officials for not taking criminal activity seriously. Huffman hoped that law enforcement, prosecutors and people who work with families could pool information.  

Frey told community activists at Shiloh that he heard their call for more youth programs, community centers and support for grassroots anti-violence initiatives. He said Minneapolis would ask for state help, especially since the anticipated budget surplus is $7 billion.  

The Rev. Jerry McAfee of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church called for a broader response to crime.

“Our community got a stake this. This behavior is not acceptable. And start doing some stuff about it. We can't wait for law enforcement to do it,” McAfee said. 

Others were more hesitant to voice support, noting long-running criticism of out-of-home placements for juveniles and concerns about racial inequities in the justice system.

In a move to build the department’s sworn personnel, Huffman asked that people consider applying for next year’s 160 police academy spots. In addition, the Police Department made a hiring change in November to allow lateral hires, rather than start every officer from scratch in an academy class. 

Huffman said they’d received about a dozen applications from officers already working elsewhere, and she hoped to get them on the street as soon as possible.