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RELEASE: House Republicans unveil "Safety in our Cities" Legislation

Monday, February 17, 2020


ST. PAUL, MN—In response to a rise in violent crime in parts of the Twin Cities, including the Light Rail, House Republicans rolled out a package of proposals at the Capitol on Monday aimed at improving public safety in Minnesota communities. Taken together, the bills 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 and in communities. House Republicans were joined at Monday’s press conference by Lt. Bob Kroll, President of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, who highlighted the need for more officers and resources in Minneapolis.

“There’s been an alarming increase in violent crime on the light rail and in parts of the Twin Cities that is causing concern for residents, workers who commute there each day, and Minnesotans who travel to the cities for sporting events and concerts,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. “Minnesotans deserve to feel safe in their communities no matter where they are—that’s why our caucus is bringing forward bills to help law enforcement combat gang violence, drug trafficking, and violent crime.”

“Rising crime puts a strain on our officers—these bills would aid law enforcement and prosecutors in responding to the drivers of crime, and starts an important discussion on how the legislature can support local law enforcement and push cities to prioritize public safety,” said Lt. Kroll.   

The 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. 2019 saw an all-time high in serious crimes committed on Metro Transit Light Rail, and 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 authored by Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Buffalo, 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 by Rep. Paul Novotny, R-Elk River, to boost funding for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) for gang and drug trafficking efforts.
  • A bill authored by Rep. Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, that would require cities with regional or statewide sports and entertainment facilities to have adequate law enforcement near those venues, or risk losing Local Government Aid (LGA) from the state.
  • A bill by Rep. Jon Koznick, R-Lakeville, that would increase enforcement of fare evasion, increase sworn officers for Metro Transit police, and install interactive cameras on light rail platforms.
  • A bill by Rep. Matt Grossell, R-Clearbrook, that would prohibit cities from disarming officers in good standing.

“House Republicans are committed to combating violent crime and promoting safety in our communities,” added Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, Republican Lead on the House Public Safety Division. “The numbers are real: violent crime is rising, and Minnesotans from all over the state have been contacting their legislators raising concerns and asking what their public officials are doing about it. We hope that Democrats will join us in these efforts and show Minnesotans that fighting crime is a bipartisan priority.”