The Minneapolis "carjacking crackdown" was a "disappointment"

One thing we’ve learned over the past year as surging violence has been tearing up many American cities is that when you defund your police or reduce their numbers, incidents of carjacking rise proportionally. It’s an easy crime to pull off, particularly for gang members, and the profits are allegedly handsome. Also, they frequently enlist underage members to commit the crimes, knowing that they will be back out on the street in short order. That was the case in Minneapolis over the winter. Their demoralized and diminished police force was unable to keep up with a surge in carjackings and an angry and frightened populace was demanding help. So in January, they launched a three-day “crackdown” on the carjackers. Arrests were made and headlines were printed celebrating the success of the operation. But now that some time has passed, many residents, particularly in South Minneapolis, are telling the local CBS News outlet that the effort hasn’t exactly paid off as portrayed.

Some Minneapolis residents are unhappy with the results of a police crackdown on carjacking in late January.

The Minneapolis Police Department and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office announced they arrested 46 people during the three-day operation. It was welcome news for concerned citizens, including Bill Rodriguez, co-founder of Operation Safety Now. It’s a grassroots neighborhood organization that advocates for police reform and against defunding.

“Everybody is sick of the crime, no matter what part of town you live in,” Rodriguez said.

So why are so many people describing the results as a disappointment? 46 arrests in only three days in one neighborhood sounds like a pretty good haul, doesn’t it?

That’s what everyone thought at the time. But now, many weeks later, residents are learning that of the 46 arrests, only 18 have been charged. And of those 18, only three were charged with actually stealing a vehicle. The rest were suspects with previous, outstanding warrants who were swept up in the action. Most of them went down on drug or weapons charges, with 15 illegal firearms being confiscated from the group. That’s still at least some good news for the law-abiding citizens of the area, but it appears that the cops really didn’t put much of a dent in the carjacker population.

The head of Operation Safety Now, quoted in the linked article, described it as a situation where a big announcement was made and the city made a big deal over it, but then you learn “that wasn’t quite what it turned out to be.” He went on to say that the handling of this operation was making him “lose trust.”

The police were using “bait cars” during the operation, a strategy that has worked well in other cities. Tempting-looking cars fitted with tracking equipment are left in high crime areas and the cops wait for carjackers to take the bait. When they do, they track them down and make the arrest. So why didn’t it produce better results in Minneapolis? The city isn’t saying.

One possibility noted by a spokesperson for the MPD is that bait cars tend to attract actual car thieves, while carjacking is more of a crime of opportunism. These criminals aren’t looking for an unattended car. They’re looking for some distracted person sitting in a running vehicle that can be dragged out of the car at gunpoint allowing a quick getaway. In some of the worst cases, drivers have been injured during the attack and female drivers have been subjected to sexual assault in addition to losing their vehicles.

Either way, this needs to be dealt with. The citizens of the city have seen what happens when the police force contracts just as crime is rising. It’s not a good formula.