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Minneapolis violent crime drops to 1980s levels

MORNING EDITION ALSO: St. Cloud prankster strikes, Dayton “distressed” with Pawlenty, Power Line goes “bipartisan,” and life as a social-media addict.
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Not since the 1980s has the rate of violent crime been as low in Minneapolis as it has been this year. The MPR story, from Matt Sepic, says: “Authorities credit a crackdown on illegal guns, and stronger partnerships with residents and community groups. Better number crunching is a factor, too. Sgt. Jeff Egge runs the department’s crime analysis unit and said police are getting a better handle on where crime occurs and why. ‘What we tried to do was to find those areas that were most likely to have offenses,’ he said. ‘And we started using trend-based data as well as historic data to isolate those area so we could actually put our police officers in those zones.’ ” Correct me if I’m wrong. But isn’t this “profiling”? And the numbers say it works?

The Strib story, by Matt McKinney says: “Minneapolis so far this year saw a 5.2 percent drop in violent crime, making this year one of the best since 1984. There have been fewer robberies in 2010 than in any year since 1983. Robbery, aggravated assault and rape are down between 2.8 and 6.7 percent from 2009. Homicides, including a spree at the beginning of the year that fanned concerns about the city’s crime rate, have doubled for the year so far, from 19 to 39. However, homicide totals in the past three years are among the lowest in 25 years.”

He adds: “Sgt. Jeff Egge, who heads the department’s crime analysis unit, said officers used to get a compilation of crime statistics from the previous week. Now, with analysis conducted by his office, patrol officers get color-coded maps showing where they should expect the most criminal activity. Along with a bank of more than 1,500 city video cameras monitored by the Police Department from a new office, the use of predictive analysis can help patrol officers stay atop rapidly changing criminal enterprises, he said.”

A prankster in St. Cloud — or at least someone making phone calls to St. Cloud residents — is pretending to be a cop demanding money for tickets for bad driving. Andy Mannix on the City Pages web site writes: “Police received reports around 5:00 p.m. that the impostor officer was harassing residents by telling them that they were poor drivers. The prankster also informed his unwitting victims that they had outstanding fines, and needed to pay up. The phone number that showed up on the victims’ phones was the Stearns County non-emergency dispatch line, says St. Cloud Police Sgt. Martin Sayre. He explains that the calls were likely made using a website that can manipulate a caller ID, rather than actually calling from the county line. ‘Whoever was making the phone calls was able to make it so they showed up on someone’s caller ID as the non-emergency number,’ says Sayre.” So where were they supposed to send the money?

You might want to start keeping score on this sort of thing. Gov.-elect Mark Dayton says he is “deeply distressed” to find out Gov. Pawlenty wasn’t leveling with him. Rachel Stassen-Berger reports for the Strib: “Dayton said Monday that the outgoing Pawlenty administration has been ‘hugely irresponsible’ and put out untrustworthy numbers regarding expanding Medicaid to broaden health care coverage for more poor Minnesotans. ‘I don’t trust anything that I’ve been told now,’ said Dayton, a Democrat. He said he was ‘deeply distressed’ after what he called a ‘candid’ meeting with Pawlenty’s top human services chief, Cal Ludeman.”

Dayton isn’t alone. “But at least one legislative expert on health care said that she was as shocked as Dayton when she discovered that the much-discussed expansion of health care would take so long. State Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, said no one from the department reported needing nine months of prep work until Assistant Human Commissioner Brian Osberg mentioned it this month.”

Jonah Goldberg, inexplicably a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, writes about the GOP’s “Top Five” presidential contenders. He notes: “[Jim] DeMint, the South Carolina senator and the “Tea Party’s” man on the inside, has said he’s not running but acts like he might be. Meanwhile, [Judd] Gregg, New Hampshire’s retiring senator, acts likes he’s not running but hasn’t ruled it out (If he did run as a New Hampshire favorite son, it would complicate things for [Mitt] Romney). [Mike] Pence, the Indiana representative, definitely wants to run but now may switch to the Indiana governorship instead. [Haley] Barbour, perhaps the sharpest political operator, remains a question mark — ironic given the depth of the GOP’s southern base.” Goldberg writes that that leaves, “Romney, [Sarah] Palin, [Newt] Gingrich, [Tim] Pawlenty and [Mitch] Daniels. Romney is the organizational front-runner; Daniels is the first pick of wonks and D.C. eggheads; Palin probably has the most devoted following among actual voters. Gingrich will dominate the debates, and Pawlenty (vying with Daniels) is the least disliked. And, of course, all of this is subject to change.” Hey, “least disliked”. Its a lot better than “doesn’t smell as bad.”

John Hinderaker of Power Line is sounding positively bipartisan as he writes about the GOP consenting to release a batch of President Obama’s judicial nominess from their nearly year-long limbo: “Senate Republicans have reached an agreement with the Obama administration, whereby ‘at least 19 of President Barack Obama’s non-controversial judicial nominees win confirmation in the waning days of the congressional session in exchange for a commitment by Democrats not to seek votes on four others’. Notably, one of the four is Goodwin Liu, a hard-core left-wing law school dean whom Obama nominated to the already-liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.”

To this Hinderaker’s fellow ‘Liner, Paul Mirengoff adds: “The agreement sounds like the right way to go. Republicans have no legitimate interest in obstructing Democratic judicial nominees for obstruction’s sake, and it is wrong to do so. President Obama’s nominees should be blocked only when they are unqualified or when, like Professor Liu, they are likely to impose their leftist views from the bench.” Or when, you know, they were seen in the company of a known Democrat … 

Oh boy, now even Denny’s capos are starting to fall. MaryJo Webster, the PiPress’ go-to Hecker reporter, covers the latest: “Federal prosecutors called James Gustafson a ‘loyal henchman’ to Denny Hecker and recommended to a judge today that the former employee be sentenced to four to 10 months in prison for his role in Hecker’s crimes.” And: “Gustafson remained by Hecker’s side into this past summer, long after the former auto dealer’s empire collapsed and Hecker was charged with fraud. Gustafson helped look after Hecker’s Crosslake estate and let his former boss use his credit card. ‘It appears Gustafson felt he owed Hecker a debt of gratitude for having received good employment for many years. Gustafson has paid a tremendous price for his loyalty and for his agreement to commit crimes for Hecker.’ ” Wait a minute … this guy let Denny Hecker use his credit card?   

UMD student Kathleen Kvam writes a commentary for the Strib on the great time suck known as “social networking.” “We need things perfect; we must fit everything into our daily lives so we can feel as if we have accomplished something. So why do we spend so much time on these social-networking sites? Don’t get me wrong: I know Facebook is used to connect people to their interests, or to keep in touch with friends and family. I feel that many people using social media have some form of addiction —they need to know exactly what everyone is doing and are afraid of feeling out of the loop. It is like a video game in which you get so wrapped up in wanting to move to the next level that you can’t stop. Because this social-media revolution is so new, we keep exploring it. Facebook changes something every day, sucking up more of our time. However we use social-networking sites, I suggest we limit our time. Can you explain to yourself why it takes up so much of yours? I know I can’t.” I’ll give you an answer but, OMG!, Facebook friend #331 just changed her relationship status!