Jun 14, 2022 - News

Minnesota agencies ahead of the curve for reporting 2021 crime data

Data: FBI, The Marshall Project; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios Visuals

Minnesota law enforcement agencies performed better than many of their counterparts across the country in reporting 2021 crime statistics to the FBI.

  • This is according to data provided to Axios from a partnership with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization focused on the U.S. criminal justice system.

The big picture: Nearly 40% of U.S. law enforcement agencies, including police departments in New York City and Los Angeles, did not submit any data in 2021.

  • But in Minnesota, 85% of the 421 jurisdictions in The Marshall Project's data set submitted crime statistics covering all 12 months of 2021.

Why it matters: Unlike residents of other states and cities, Minnesotans can expect access to comprehensive data showing trends in local crime, including in the Twin Cities metro.

Zoom in: Minnesota law enforcement agencies are required by state statute to submit crime data to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

  • "Minnesota law enforcement agencies have a long history of submitting crime data to meet state and federal reporting requirements," BCA spokesperson Jill Oliveira told Axios, noting that the agency has been compiling crime stats since 1936.

Agencies for all major metro agencies, including the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments, participated.

  • Just five departments covering areas with small populations and two tribal agencies failed to submit data.

The backdrop: Last year, the FBI retired its nearly century-old national crime data collection program and switched to a new system, the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which gathers more specific information on each incident.

  • The FBI announced the transition in 2015 and the federal government spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help local police make the switch, yet nearly 7,000 of the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies did not send 2021 crime data to the voluntary program by a February deadline, The Marshall Project reports.
  • Minnesota, meanwhile, began transitioning to the new system in 2017 to prepare for the switch, Oliveira said.

What they're saying: Experts say the national data gap makes it harder to analyze crime trends and fact-check claims politicians make about crime.

  • "It's going to be really hard for policymakers to look at what crime looks like in their own community and compare it to similar communities," Jacob Kaplan, a criminologist at Princeton University, told The Marshall Project.

Of note: The FBI told The Marshall Project in a statement that agencies had until early March to be included in a full-year report, so final participation figures might vary.

What to watch: The 2020 data showed violent crime surging in Minnesota, with a record number of homicides.

  • The full figures for 2021, expected to be released by the fall, will likely be a top issue in the midterm elections.

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