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Horowitz: Data show record number of Minnesota criminals avoiding prison

Op-ed
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With the growing crime problem in America, the fault line in public policy seems to revolve around funding levels for the police. Republican candidates for office are running on funding the police and accusing Democrats of wanting to defund the police. But there is a much more basic problem. What good are the police if both parties buy into the "criminal justice reform" narrative of over-incarceration and advocate the release of more criminals onto the streets? The latest data from Minneapolis show that you can spend $1 trillion on police, but it's meaningless if the judicial system fails to punish them.

Politico reports that Joe Biden will be focusing on rising crime this week; however, his administration will likely ignore the real culprit. We don't need a blue-ribbon commission to figure out why crime is rising in cities like Minneapolis. Even before the BLM-declared war on police last year, Minneapolis had been letting criminals off the hook. Crime Watch Minneapolis reports that the latest data show that even in 2019, 39% of those defendants recommended for prison received a downward departure from sentencing guidelines. That was the highest rate observed and followed a recent steep incline.

This is not the war on cops, but the war on incarceration that has been taking place over the past decade and has been fully adopted by most Republicans. Sure, the war on cops helped ignite the fire, but the original fuses were lit by "criminal justice reform." Just because police back off doesn't mean that most people will just go out and commit crime. You need a record number of career criminals on the streets in order for such a police retreat to result in the catastrophic results we are seeing today.

As you can see from this chart of the Minnesota sentencing guidelines, even following sentencing guidelines allows judges to avoid mandating prison time altogether for those convicted of theft and burglary, even with a past criminal history. Thus, those record number of individuals who escaped the guidelines, by definition, were violent and repeat offenders. As Minneapolis Crime Watch reports, there were 17,355 felony convictions in MN in 2019, and only 5,965 were initially recommended for prison. Of those, 2,353 received a downward departure (no prison or less prison than recommended). So, of 17,355 felony convictions, only 3,612 were fully sentenced, and almost all of them get out of prison much earlier because of numerous early release and good time credit programs.

And let's not forget that serial burglars are not only a danger to property and quality of life, but they are often people who go on to commit more serious crimes. For example, last week, a 94-year-old Asian woman, Ann Taylor, was allegedly stabbed in front of her San Francisco home by a man released multiple times for burglary. He was arrested five times last year for burglary and was even arrested (but acquitted) for stabbing someone to death. He was sprung from prison after his last burglary just seven days before the attack. This is the profile of the typical career criminal who used to be locked up but is now on the streets thanks to "restorative justice."

Not only are the violent career criminals not kept behind bars, but now it's aggravated by the fact that police are scared to proactively make arrests. The Star Tribune reports that in Minneapolis, violent arrests have dropped by a third, "with about 400 so far, compared with about 600 at this time last year." But is that because there are fewer criminals to arrest? Of course not! Minneapolis is experiencing its worst murder/carjacking crisis of all time. The number of shooting victims is up nearly 90% compared with the first half of last year, and homicides are up from 22 to 40 over the same period. Yet arrests are done. Or more aptly put, that is precisely why shootings are up.

Hence, you can throw as much money at the cops as you want, but if you don't allow them to arrest anyone, and if the judges release the violent criminals they do arrest, what is the purpose of even having a police force?

What is needed is a commitment to strengthening mandatory sentencing in all states, especially for repeat offenders. We need ironclad mandatory minimums for repeat violent offenders, a "three strikes and you're out" law, and innovative ways to prevent them from pleading down serious charges.

Unless we actually reform the justice system to deter career criminals, the sacrifice of law enforcement is tragically worthless. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, there has been a 41% increase in law enforcement killed this year relative to the same time frame last year. Police are more likely to run into career criminals than ever before, yet they must use less proactive force. As such, what is the incentive for them to place themselves in danger and even respond to volatile situations?

As Patrick Lynch, president of the New York City Police Benevolent Association, recently said: "At this point, there is nothing left for police officers to 'step back' from. We are doing the job exactly as our elected leaders have asked us to do it. They will have to answer for the results."
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