Eden Prairie City Center was the place to be on Monday, Jan. 10, if you were a governmental leader in the Twin Cities concerned about rising vehicle-related crimes.
The presence of about 100 city, county and statewide officials filling a first-floor conference room revealed in itself just how serious they thought the region’s outbreak of crimes such as carjackings and car thefts has become.
That was confirmed when they began brainstorming ways to work together to quash the rising crime trend.
It was part of an extended session of the January meeting of the Regional Council of Mayors, hosted in the city’s spacious Heritage Rooms.
The idea for a regional response to the crimes was first broached by Mayor Ron Case and several other southwest suburban mayors last month in Eden Prairie. Afterward, Case and four other mayors released a joint statement pledging to bring the conversation to a larger audience (for the article, click here).
On Monday, that larger audience included mayors, police chiefs and city managers from nearly every city in Hennepin County, along with other representatives of many towns outside of the region.
Speakers included Eden Prairie Police Chief Matt Sackett, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, and Minnesota State Commissioner of Corrections Paul Schnell.
In a Jan. 11 message to residents, Case said Monday’s discussion identified ideas to improve regional coordination, legislative changes to reduce juvenile crime, and proposed changes to Hennepin County bail policies.
Freeman also committed to building closer relationships with the county’s police chiefs, Case stated.
“The issue is extremely complex — one that cannot be solved by law enforcement or our judicial system alone,” he stated. “This important ongoing discussion must result in solutions that make us safer AND address the underlying elements of COVID isolation, structural inequalities and poverty. It cannot begin and end with more arrests, more jail time and more lifetime consequences.”
Shortly after it ended, Case described the meeting as a historical moment for Eden Prairie. He can’t recall another time that 31 mayors met in the city before, noting he is proud of the leadership role that the city has taken in convening the regional conversation.
Monday’s meeting, he said, offered a chance for the city to shine a spotlight on its “two-pronged approach” to the issue of public safety.
He said the first addresses “the car crime perception and reality that is happening in the region and also an uptick within Eden Prairie.”
Like other cities in the region, Eden Prairie has had its share of vehicle-related crimes, such as break-ins or catalytic converter thefts. A carjacking last occurred in Eden Prairie in January 2021 outside the Tower Square shopping center.
The second is the city’s race equity report that “lays a path forward to address societal inequities in our community,” he stated in his message.
“I think doing both of those enhances our position to our residents but also our status in the region that Eden Prairie is a leader on those fronts,” Case said.
He said the Regional Council of Mayors will discuss the issue again at its April meeting. Meanwhile, Case and the other local mayors who raised the issue last month plan to meet soon.
“Our police chiefs always meet, but I think they feel energized and supported in their efforts (after Monday’s meeting),” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more collegial work between our police departments. Again, a lot of that is already going on. But, concerted efforts just to make sure the southwest suburban area is right on the cutting edge of working to address car crimes.”
Case reiterated during the meeting that Minneapolis and St. Paul need to work with the suburbs on many crime and societal issues.
“This is not suburb against city, or core city,” Case said after last month’s meeting. “It’s completely the opposite. Eden Prairie and other suburbs won’t remain successful if the core cities are not successful.”