See more of the story

A violent-crime task force says Minneapolis law enforcement agencies must be more aggressive tracking down people with arrest warrants for violent crimes and solving homicides and carjackings.

Minneapolis has solved just 38% of homicides and 12% of carjackings this year, according to a new report by HEALS 2.0, a private-public coalition formed in January to drive down crime rates across the Twin Cities.

Mark Osler, a University of St. Thomas School of Law professor and a former federal prosecutor, recommended getting help from the U.S. Marshals Task Force to help track down violent offenders with arrest warrants.

To speed solving cases, Osler is calling for "an immediate infusion" of new investigators paid for with money available through the U.S. Department of Justice.

At a recent meeting with the group, Minneapolis' new community safety commissioner, Cedric Alexander, said that there are no quick solutions, noting that the Police Department already is down roughly 300 officers due to a wave of retirements, resignations and officers taking disability leave due to post-traumatic stress disorder.

He told the group that a fully staffed police department ultimately will be the difference in driving down crime, but that finding hundreds of new, qualified officers will take time.

"Safety is not only a top priority, it is paramount," said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. "Such a paramount priority demands committed partners willing to put parochial interests aside in favor of an approach that doesn't stop at a city boundary."

Outgoing Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman started HEALS 1.0 in its first iteration more than two decades ago, when Minneapolis was dubbed "Murderapolis." The aim was to recruit local police departments, sheriff offices and local businesses to come up with a comprehensive private-public violence prevention plan.

Freeman resurrected a new version of the group earlier this year to address surging crime . HEALS, which stands for Hope, Education and Law & Safety, includes representatives from law enforcement, the courts and community, faith and business leaders. It formed to focus on reducing serious violent crime, with juvenile carjackings a priority.

The group quickly discovered that more than 70% of carjackings this year were committed in Minneapolis or by Minneapolis residents. The group concluded that focusing more investigators in these carjacking hot spots could dramatically drive down overall numbers.

"Carjacking will still be a focus, but we will be moving into violent crime," Freeman said.

Minneapolis has recorded its 64th homicide for the year this week, according to data tracked by the Star Tribune. In the decade before 2020, homicide tallies averaged around 30 by this time of year.

Freeman's new group includes participation from suburban police chiefs and mayors and community leaders. State and federal law enforcement agencies increased mutual aid to Minneapolis in a push for more information sharing and embedding a social worker in every suburban police department.

The plan for HEALS 2.0 will be broken down into three areas: early intervention, preventing crime and how best to respond to violent crime.

"Combating violent crime requires a multifaceted effort: prosecution, community engagement, and the work of violence intervention and interruption," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lugersaid. "A large part of our strategy is focusing our prosecutorial resources on federal carjacking violations and gun crimes."

Freeman said reducing carjackings continues to be difficult because suspects often cover their faces and catch victims by surprise.

He said it also was important to debunk the disinformation among some suburban police chiefs and political activists that suspects were arrested and immediately released. Suspects are held at least until their first court appearance when bail is determined.

Two main business community supporters are the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Downtown Improvement District and Minnesota Business Partnership.

Steve Cramer, head of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, said he understands police departments need more officers to combat crime, but sometimes community-based groups also can be effective.

That's why Cramer hired MAD DADS of Minneapolis and 21 Days of Peace to hit downtown crime hotspots to de-escalate violence, or get a person help for a mental health issue or treatment for a chemical dependency issue, he said. The improvement district also has a social worker embedded with its outreach team and is looking to add another.

"The business community believes in a strong, comprehensive approach to deal with safety concerns in front of us right now," Cramer said.

The Rev. Jerry McAfee, a longtime community activisthired by the district, said the broader economic factors that drive criminal activity need to be addressed.

He was pleased that a strong community presence was part of HEALS 2.0.

"We can't put change entirely on law enforcement," McAfee said. "Every resident has to play their role. I continue to be amazed that there are more good people than bad people."