County Attorney Freeman joins Minneapolis Mayor, Chief in combating violence

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman joined Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janee Harteau Friday in rolling out a new initiative to stop violent crime in the city.

Harteau said she has put together a taskforce of six veteran investigators to investigate all gun violence cases, rather than having them being looked at separately by juvenile units, robbery units or aggravated assault/homicide units. By funneling all of those cases to a single group of investigators, they will be able to see the patterns including which gun crime victims later become gun crime suspects, she said.

Freeman followed Harteau to the podium in Minneapolis City Hall and announced that he would be assigning a “seasoned, veteran prosecutor who is experienced in violent crimes and gang activity,” to work with Harteau’s taskforce investigators.

“Relationships mean the results get better,” Freeman said of having a single prosecutor working with the same investigators. “We need all of that to get the gun-toters off the streets. Let me be clear. If you commit a violent, you can’t carry a handgun. If you carry a handgun in Minneapolis, we will getcha.”

Hodges set the tone for the new initiative, noting that violent crime is up five percent this year in Minneapolis, even as police have made 13 percent more arrests for those crimes than they did this time last year.

“Violent crime is unacceptable,” Hodges said. “It’s unacceptable in any neighborhood.”

Besides the new police and prosecution initiative, Hodges noted the other intervention and prevention programs in the city, such as a pilot project to cut domestic abuse in the Little Earth community. Her office also is talking to other partners, including non-profits and religious leaders, to develop new programs to prevent violence, Hodges said.

City Council President Barb Johnson, who represents the city’s north side, said her constituents live with the gun violence all of the time and it has caused them to be afraid to go to public areas such as grocery stores. She applauded the new efforts and pointed out that it is “a very few people, in the big picture of our city,” who are causing the violence, but they must be stopped because “priority number one for city government is public safety.”

In answer to several questions from reporters and others, Freeman said that his office has been tough on gun crimes. Recently, the office reviewed all the gun crimes of the past two years in which prosecutors declined to bring charges against the suspect and after that second look, were able to bring charges in a few of the cases, he said. In addition, the Minnesota Legislature earlier this year passed a law that he had lobbied hard for which not only made it illegal for a felon who is prohibited from possessing a firearm to also be prohibited from possessing ammunition.

“We now have more felons in possession serving time in prison, but there are more guns on the street than ever before,” Freeman said. “If we want to get serious about gun crimes, we would get serious about the flow of guns, but we are not willing to do that in this country.”