ST. PAUL – Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, and fellow House Republicans on Monday rolled out a package of proposals aimed at improving public safety in Minnesota communities.
The bills are in response to a rise in violent crime on Metro Transit vehicles and in many parts of the Twin Cities. Taken together, they target many of the issues driving crime in the Metro area, including gang and drug trafficking activity, as well as the need for additional officers and tools for law enforcement to combat crime on the light rail lines and in communities. House Republicans were joined at Monday’s press conference by Minneapolis Police Union President Lt. Bob Kroll, who highlighted the need for more officers in Minneapolis.
“Our government’s most basic core function is to protect its citizens,” Urdahl said. “The rise in violent crime and drug trafficking in Minnesota is a clear indicator there is room for improvement in that regard and that’s what we are looking to do with this package of bills. We can’t just keep ignoring the statistics and hoping these problems go away on their own. Criminal activity in the metro area ultimately impacts the rest of Minnesota, making this a statewide issue that needs to be addressed.”
Last year saw an all-time high in serious crimes committed on Metro Transit light rail and the Minneapolis Star Tribune recently reported that two-thirds of neighborhoods in Minneapolis saw an increase in overall crime in 2019 – including a 70 percent spike in the Minneapolis Downtown East neighborhood. St. Paul saw a doubling in the homicide rate in 2019, much of it connected to gang violence. In addition, Minnesota’s Violence Crime Enforcement Teams saw major increases in the amounts of meth, heroin, and cocaine compared to 2018 – much of it being trafficked by gangs and produced and smuggled into the United States by Mexican drug cartels.
Proposals announced Monday by House Republicans include:
- A bill that would require cities with regional or statewide sports and entertainment facilities to have adequate law enforcement, or risk losing Local Government Aid (LGA) from the state.
- A bill to boost penalties for gang members who use firearms in commission of a crime. Currently, prosecutors are not pursuing gun charges against criminals who commit crimes using guns because the penalty level is not high enough.
- A bill to boost funding for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) for gang and drug trafficking efforts.
- A bill that would increase enforcement of fare evasion, increase sworn officers for Metro Transit police, and install interactive cameras on light rail platforms.
- A bill that would prohibit cities from disarming officers in good standing.