If there is one issue on which Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is most vulnerable, it is law and order. Minnesotans watched Minneapolis burn for three days after George Floyd’s death before Walz called out the National Guard, and then blamed Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey for the delay. More importantly, in the wake of Floyd’s death, an upsurge in crime occurred in the Twin Cities, with violent crimes soaring to levels not seen in a generation.

Yes, the surge has occurred in other cities, but the one thing they have in common is that progressives rule those cities’ law enforcement and judiciary. The surge began after the silly virtue-signaling by most of the Minneapolis City Council to “defund the police,” replacing them with social workers. Most DFLers have backed off that idea.

The challenge with trying to reduce crime with social workers is that it would take 20 years to see any results. Criminals are not created suddenly when they turn 16 or 18 years old. With few exceptions, they come from dysfunctional homes, often with no father present, and they are traumatized at a very young age, whether it be from violence in the home, physical or sexual assault, or drug and alcohol abuse. Left to their own devices, those children often make bad choices, forsaking an education for a gang, and opting for illegal drugs to address their trauma.

Looking at crime statistics long-term, one should realize that crime is not caused by racism or economics. The Great Depression caused widespread poverty, but not a surge in crime. The problem has primarily been caused by the loss of the nuclear family — mom, dad and the kids — and the accompanying growth of the illegal drug trade. That destruction began in the mid-1960s, when Congress created the Aid for Families with Dependent Children program that paid mothers to have more babies as long as the father was not present.

Each year, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) publishes its “Crime Book,” which is full of statistics showing how many of each type of crime was committed in the state. The last time the DPS ran a historical chart going back more than a few years was in 2014. That chart goes back to 1936.

Anyone under 60 years old may be skeptical, but it really is true that in the first half of the 20th century, crime was substantially less common than it is today. As just one example, the number of aggravated assaults never topped 1,000 annually statewide until 1965. Then they topped 2,000 in 1971, doubled again to top 4,000 in 1979 and peaked at 8,655 in 2006. In 2020, the last year for which statistics are available, the state had 8,203. Unsurprisingly, since murder occasionally results from assault, murders have also risen. From 1936 to 1965, the state averaged 35 murders annually. In 2020, the state experienced 185 homicides.

While it is true that the population of Minnesota has almost doubled since 1950, the frequency of assaults and murders has grown several times more. Unfortunately, no one wants to talk about restoring the nuclear family, reducing childhood trauma and creating positive role models for young boys. No one wants to talk about the growth of illegal drug use — perhaps because that would draw attention to the sieve that is the United States’ southern border.

Regardless, the dominant narrative since 2014 when Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., has been that white cops are unjustifiably killing Black men. We are throwing cops in jail and building memorials to felons. I am not questioning the verdicts on those cops, but what has been the result? Timid and undermanned policing and an emboldened criminal class. In Minnesota, the clearance rate on criminal complaints has fallen since 2015, and reached a new low of 20% in 2020 — good odds for outlaws.

Criminologists say that in any metro community, about 50 people are responsible for a majority of the violent crime. If Minneapolis and St. Paul could just get those people off the street, the crime rate should plummet. While any person is innocent until proven guilty, repeat violent offenders need to have bail denied or set high enough to make it difficult to go free before trial. Juvenile carjackers need to be sent to the state’s facility for boys in Red Wing, not given a verbal admonishment and returned to the streets.

The political class instead seems conflicted about crime. Walz and other DFLers seem to be more afraid of offending their political base within which many of these felons hide. Republicans seem to think a good marketing effort will get more people to go into law enforcement for a career, when the root cause of increased resignations from and decreased candidates for law enforcement careers is the lack of support from politicians

If one looks at the websites of Minnesota Republican candidates for governor, one sees little detail about what to do about crime other than that they support the police and oppose law-breaking. Even Walz could agree with that. The first candidate who comes out with a solid, detailed plan to get violent, repeat criminals off the street, should quickly become the favorite to be elected this November.

Tom West, now retired, is the former general manager of this paper. Reach him at westwords.mcr@gmail.com.

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