District 16A State Rep. Chris Swedzinski of Ghent and fellow House Republicans rolled out a package of proposals Feb. 17 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 a Feb. 17 press conference by Minneapolis Police Union President Lt. Bob Kroll, who highlighted the need for more officers in Minneapolis.
“House Republicans recognize there are serious public safety concerns in Minnesota and we are doing something about it,” Swedzinski said. “The heinous crimes we’ve seen – particularly on light rail lines and outside of facilities that host major events – cannot be tolerated. Taxpaying Minnesotans throughout our state deserve better and should be able to visit the amenities they’ve paid for without fearing for their safety. The package of bills we’ve introduced would be a big step in curbing violent crimes that are happening all too frequently.”
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 violent 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 Feb. 17 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.