It’s no secret that the Twin Cities - and some suburbs – are facing a problem of rising crime. Minneapolis reported 96 homicides in 2021 - the most in two decades, and one shy of the record set in 1995. The city had 75 carjackings in December alone. St. Paul set a record for homicides too.

Several communities have launched homeowner surveillance camera programs. Regardless of how one views the privacy implications, it’s striking that these communities feel the need to take such steps.

There are a lot of reasons for the spike in crime, including economic and environmental factors and anti-police rhetoric. As a professor at Metropolitan State who studies crime in Minnesota recently told the Star Tribune, “Any criminologist will tell you that when [law enforcement] legitimacy goes down, people take matters into their own hands.”

But one contributing factor that’s not discussed as frequently is the role that weak prosecutors play in rising crime. Far too often, judges and prosecutors are going easy on repeat offenders, sending them back out onto the street to commit more crimes. It has happened over and over and over and over. 

The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association sent a letter to the attorneys for Hennepin and Ramsey County decrying their unwillingness to fully prosecute certain crimes. Rising break-ins are even leading Mayors to call for stronger prosecution of nonviolent crimes, and they are right. 

Prosecutors who decide on their own to be gentle on criminals are failing in their duty to uphold the constitution and protect our communities. They are effectively taking the law into their own hands, putting our families and neighbors at risk.

We follow the laws we have agreed to as a society and we expect others to do the same. When they don’t, we expect them to be fairly and appropriately punished. When county attorneys, prosecutors, and judges simply determine on their own to not uphold laws, it emboldens criminals and escalates “small” crimes to larger ones.

As a member of the Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of our criminal justice system, I look forward to hearings on the responsibility for letting criminals off easy at all levels of our judicial system. Keeping the public safe from crime must be a universal priority.

Senator Mary Kiffmeyer represents Big Lake in the Minnesota Senate. She can be reached at 651-296-5655 or sen.mary.kiffmeyer@senate.mn.

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