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Clara  James

Minneapolis Murder Rates

By May 29, 2010

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The murder on Monday at Lake Calhoun, and Friday night's deadly shooting in north Minneapolis make a total of 21 murders this year. Reports of the murders have emphasized that the number of homicides so far in 2010 has already exceed the number of murders for the whole of 2009, when there was 19 in the city of Minneapolis.

Minneapolis murder rates peaked in 1995 with 99 homicides. Locally produced "Murderapolis" shirts caught national attention, partly because the homicide rate here had climbed higher than cities such as New York.  The murder rate fell from that level and remained steady through the late 1990s and most of the 2000s, with between 40 and 60 murders per year.

  • 1995 - 99
  • 1996 - 86
  • 1997 - 58
  • 1998 - 58
  • 1999  - 48
  • 2000 - 50
  • 2001 - 43
  • 2002 - 47
  • 2003 - 46
  • 2004 - 53
  • 2005 - 47
  • 2006 - 60
  • 2007 - 47
  • 2008 - 39
  • 2009 - 19
  • 2010 - 21, as of May 28.

Murder rates stayed relatively constant for several years, then 2009 happened, with barely half the homicides of the previous year. What happened? And why does Minneapolis seem to be returning to the decade-long trend just 12 months later? If murders continue at the same rate through the end of 2010, there will be 50 in the city.

Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak proudly credited youth programs, tough law enforcement and aggressive crime prevention in reducing not just murders, but overall crime rates in 2009.

Have the Minneapolis Police Department been resting on their laurels in 2010, or are the recent increase in murders due to complex factors the police don't have the resources to deal with? The Lake Calhoun murder has been linked to local gangs who, according to a report in the Star Tribune, are more violent, less organized, and harder to control than the gangs of a decade ago.

But this week Mayor Rybak blamed drug users, specifically marijuana smokers.

"When you pay for marijuana, you are paying for the bullet that goes into the head of someone on the streets," he said. "Too many people have winked sideways without being honest that it's white middle class Minnesota that's paying for the drugs that put profit into gangs that kill people."

There's no question that conflicts over drug deals can be responsible for violent crime, but it's not like marijuana was only just invented.

Community groups and churches in North Minneapolis have planned a neighborhood rally and march planned for June 13 along West Broadway, for those who want to see an end to violence.


May 31, 2010 at 9:08 am
(1) meg says:

marijuana, really people? everyone needs a little bit more education. in places like los angeles where medical marijuana is commonplace there is rarely an incident of violence. why not find blame with drugs that actually cause problems such as meth or heroine. it could also just possibly be the gangs themselves esp if there are “disorganized” which leads one to believe that they are unstable. blaming it on marijuana just is taking away from the medical marijuana community and the work they have done to educate people on this treatment. really, when was the last time you heard of a violent marijuana user?

May 31, 2010 at 10:41 am
(2) Minnesotan says:

Maybe we should be blaming the fact pot is illegal? If it wasn’t illegal there wouldn’t be a black market… Uggg politicians drive me nuts.

May 31, 2010 at 11:46 am
(3) Taija says:

Marijuana huh? I dont know about most people, but the worst crime I ever commit high is stealing a bag of cheetos. There is nothing about marijuana that makes you violent.

June 2, 2010 at 12:25 am
(4) T says:

Taija (#3): Rybak isn’t saying that violence is caused by you smoking pot. He’s saying that, by giving your money to drug dealers who, somewhere along the distribution line, are affiliated with violent criminal organizations, you end up funding violent criminal activity somewhere up the chain with your purchase. Whatever pot you’re buying, it’s highly unlikely that it came from some peaceful aging hippie dude who’s growing in his basement as a hobby. There’s an extensive business in operation to get your weed to you (or any other drug to where anyone else will buy it), and as businesses go, that one tends to be a bit bloody. Meg (#1), you’re kind of missing the point here, too. Again: no one is saying that marijuana causes people to be violent and murderous. Rybak’s saying that illegal drugs, including marijuana, tend to be sold by violent gangs of professional drug dealers and drug runners, which you’re bankrolling when you buy drugs from them.

Minnesotan (#2), I would largely to agree with you, overall. Rybak’s likely aware that he can’t unilaterally legalize marijuana, though, so in that context I do have to commend him for the directness of his comment. It’s really easy for some middle-class college kid who likes to toke up every once in awhile not to think about where his pot is coming from and who’s getting it there, and what kind of violence might be wrought in the process. I think that legalizing it would likely decrease that quite a bit, but in the meantime, facts are facts, and those are the facts about buying illegal drugs in an illegal market. One’s money goes somewhere after one exchanges it for drugs, and where it goes might not be nearly as far removed from that shooting at Lake Calhoun as many might think.

June 7, 2010 at 6:30 pm
(5) Leslie Davis says:

I’m running for governor and I have numerous solutions to the murder rate. First we need people to know that we care for them and want them to have an opportunity to succeed.
Then they need training and a job. That’s where “The Davis Money Plan” comes in. It will create thousands of jobs in Minnesota, balance the budget, prevent tax increases and prevent cuts in vital programs. You know in your heart and mind that we can’t keep doing things the same old way by simply electing someone because they have lots of money to advertise their name or because they are in the DFL.
You know we need dedicated people like Leslie Davis and Lt. Governor Greg Soderberg to serve this time around and get things squared away.
If it’s not us you will have more misery than you bargained for with either cuts and cuts or taxes and taxes.
Look me over and get in touch. Your life might depend on it.
And by the way…contact me for my “Stop The Drug War” paper. If we stop the Drug War you take most of the crime out of the city and set the people free. Not good for the lawyers and the snitches but great for us…the people.
For the people,
Leslie Davis for Governor 2010

June 8, 2010 at 12:24 pm
(6) kat says:

we all know the violence is caused by gang members and wanna bes. It’s not just drugs, it’s prostitution, guns etc. and just plain not having a “dad” in the picture doesn’t help either. Single moms have a lot on their plates, especially in this economy, and don’t always “see” what’s going on because they have to work and have other kids etc. to deal with. Sometimes the young male thinks it’s his responsibilty to bring in some cash, ergo…whatever it takes, he’s willing to do. Most of them really feel that life is hopeless and they won’t make it to their 21st birthday, or if they do, it won’t be in one piece. That’s only part of the problem, the other is the swinging door of justice. The cops get them off the street, the lawyers and judges put them back on.

August 4, 2010 at 3:35 pm
(7) Andrew says:

I just read an article on About.com that pertained to the increased murder rate in Minneapolis. The article quoted RT Rybak saying, and I paraphrase, buying marijuana, somewhere up the line, funds gangs that are violent. A string of comments to the article gut all up in a huff about marijuana NOT making people violent. Finally, someone posted a comment telling them they misinterpreted the quote. Rybak wasn’t saying marijuana made people violent; he was saying you, by buying pot from someone who doesn’t home-grow, are giving money to gangs and individuals who can be violent forces in a community.

So, the argument, of course, turned to legalizing marijuana. On the face of it, it looks like a brilliant plan: You take away the illegal nature of marijuana, you take away the black market, thus taking away the violence that accompanies the black market. I take issue with this perspective. First of all, who’s to say everyone would be able to sell weed? Maybe it wouldn’t be illegal to possess marijuana or smoke it, but do you really believe the government would allow just anyone on the street to undercut the businesses legally selling marijuana? You legalize it, you open it up to taxes and corporations who would go into fierce battles to corner the market on marijuana sales. This may drive down prices, but I believe there would still exist a black market to undersell the businesses that have a license to sell it.

This leads to my second point. A bar is required to have a liquor license to sell alcohol. I would imagine it is likely the same would be true for marijuana, ergo those without a license would be selling it illegally. I find it unlikely that gangs and drug-runners are going to take the time and incur the expense of getting a license. Again, you would end up with a black market and the accompanying violence.

So, legalize marijuana, legalize violence? It’s more complicated than that. Personally, I think drugs are just a symptom that fuels violence – not the cause of violence. I place the blame of violence in our city, in any city, on the disparity of wealth/power/opportunity and the culture machine. Clearly, the power in this city (this country) is NOT possessed by the people; it is possessed by those who possess the means and relations of production, those who have the money and power to buy elections and representatives and judges. Not that everyone is on someone’s payroll… but you have money in this society, you have power. You control media, you control culture. They go hand in hand. The ultra rich in our society define culture. The people can modify it, sometimes come up with their own short-lived trends, but the real culture: education, media (news, television, music, movies), politics, economics… that is contained solely in the bubble of the rich. You allow, in a capitalist society (not that capitalism is ALL bad), one person to become ultra-wealthy while 10 exist in poverty…that feeling of injustice and inequality will breed resentment and anger which cause violence. This coupled with media glamorizing violence all the time, supports violence and normalizes it.

Okay, so what’s the solution? First of all, a flat tax for everyone and every business. We all pay the same percentage. No tax shelters, no loop holes. We all pay. That’s first. Second, we cap salaries at an amount that will produce the greatest revenue for the society while providing a comfortable lifestyle. To throw out a figure, let’s say we cap ANYONE’s salary at no more than $500,000 per year. Anything earned over that will go into the coffers of the county…or back into the business to pay the increased salaries of the workers. I used to say we should pay everyone the same amount, from dishwashers to doctors to CEOs – everyone gets the exact same wage. I have since come to understand this is not feasible in our culture. Instead, we should take the excess profits of businesses and pay the proletariat more so that we have a more equitable distribution of wealth.

Third, we make all education free and pay our teachers more. We should educate every citizen in the nation. Furthermore, we should revolutionize the way we teach our youth so that we are not creating patriotic automatons but giving our youth critical thinking skills and teaching them the reality of our nation. I know, there can be much debate about the “reality of our nation.” I welcome debate about what that means. Personally, I see a nation that is in the grips of the elite, primarily white, primarily male (though that is changing) that fuels racial, gender, religious, and sexual orientation wars to keep us fighting amongst ourselves so that we may not pull the curtain back and see the wizard. Yes, I believe there are people in this country that want to keep us stupid and poor but comfortable enough to not want to change. Yes, I realize this sounds like a teenage conspiracy theory. But look around. Look at what happened to Wall Street. Look at what happened to Mortgage market. And of course alcohol is legal while pot is not! It’s the perfect recipe to keep us medicated and killing each other.

So, how do we get this? How do we change our society? I can tell you now, it is not through elections and political debate. At this entrenched point in history, we need a true and complete revolution. Stop. I am not advocating for violent revolution. I am advocating for peaceful revolution. Every worker in the country go on strike. Don’t go to work. Don’t buy anything, except for what is necessary from local merchants. March. Bring this country to a grinding halt. Then demand complete political change. Personally, I would advocate for Socialism, but I am open to discussion on that point. My three demands would be a flat tax, a cap on salaries, and free education/healthcare. The thing of it is, we have the power to do this. We have to stop fighting amongst ourselves and fight the culture machine, the uber wealthy.

So, gangbanger, thug, disaffected youth, drunk dude… don’t mug or beat me – JOIN ME! Together we can create real change, but we have to be together, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation…

Legalizing pot will only make the rich, richer. We have to stop being distracted by all this trivial shit. We have to wake up, America. We have to pull the curtain back and tell that wizard enough is enough. It is us that should have the power, and all we have to do is decide to exert it, and it will be ours. These are my political, philosophical thoughts. I know they are not as high-falutin as they could be. I know it’s not elegant and witty. This is my heart. I rarely try and make things pretty. I rarely cite statistics. I just wanted to rant for a bit. Hope you enjoyed it…

June 20, 2011 at 11:34 am
(8) Marko says:

Andrew, there is no way that you can say there would still be a black market for anything until you see where the legal market, business interests, and accompanying supplies and demands would look like. Speculation can be fun though.

July 22, 2011 at 4:39 pm
(9) Marc says:

Andrew hit on good reasons for the existence of crime and failed at nearly everything else. A) Street gangs (amateurs) do not supply the large amount of drugs, to include marijuana. The pros do (organized). So you are not directly funding the triggermen with enough marijuana $ to build enough correlation to link murder to marijuana. Weak analogy to Rybak. Capping salaries greatly weakens the notion of capitalism, which is a big root in the American tree. This could lead to a regression in production and output, due to a feeling of soldiering entering into the owners, who will only achieve 500K for themselves and stop. This will eliminate job creation, leaving more out of work people, and possibly lower wages as there is more competition for all jobs. Education is a good idea as long as standards aren’t lowered. However the trend has been to pass everyone as we cut corners on paying for everyone to have free(er) K-12. Socialism has already been tried to the level that you speak of, and failed. Some of the only ones left to claim Socialism or its evil cousin: N Vietnam (oppressed), N Korea (oppressed), China (business-wise, not Socialistic and allows for open salary, which you oppose not to) Cuba (only one where I blame the US for its faltering economy, but still down) Soviet Union was the biggest proponent and failed economically while trying to spread the notion of socialism. There should be a well-planned well-structured education system, and medical system, with the availibility of private options for both. You enjoy America for its economy (shaky right now) and its ability for civil liberties and relative safety, don’t assume complete reengineering gov’t is going to make things better.

January 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm
(10) ChildPredator says:

1) Who buys marijuana from gang members? Despite what flawed logic politicians use, most of the marijuana in Minnesota is not imported from violent Mexican cartels, but rather from local independent growers with either non-violent or no criminal history.
2) In regards to the Post Hoc/over simplified cause “When you pay for marijuana, you are paying for the bullet that goes into the head of someone on the streets”, this same exaggerated logic could be used for paying taxes or voting (since it funds an over-inflated military budget that constantly shows it’s presence in foreign countries)

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