Adult felony prosecutions down last year in Rosemount
The good news is that the number of adult felony prosecutions for 2008 in Dakota County decreased by 9 percent from 2007. And the number of illegal drug charges dropped significantly.
An alarming trend has continued, however, according to Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom: the county continues to prosecute an increasing number of violent crime cases.
Violent crimes rose to an all-time high in the county, from 565 in 2007 to 646 in 2008, an increase of 14 percent. The 10-year average for violent crime is 439.
Felony assault charges increased from 235 in 2007 to 242 in 2008; terroristic threats increased from 112 in 2007 to 123 in 2008; and felony sex-related charges increased from 87 in 2007 to 110 in 2008.
"While it is cause for concern that the number of violent crime charges remain significantly higher than the 10-year average for these offenses in Dakota County, it is important to keep in mind that our violent crime rate is statistically quite low for the size of the county," Backstrom said.
Prosecutions are down
In 2008, the Dakota County Attorney's office charged 1,729 adults with felony offenses, compared to 1,891 in 2007.
Rosemount was one of the jurisdictions that showed a decrease in the number of individuals charged with felonies, from 85 to 69.
But police chief Gary Kalstabakken said those numbers don't tell the whole story on the crime rate in the city. If the police department investigates a single crime and finds five people involved, for example, that could skew the numbers.
Still, he's happy with the decrease. Kalstabakken said preliminary numbers show the number of crimes reported last year in Rosemount was down from 2007.
"It's always a good sign," he said.
As was the case in most Dakota County cities drug-related offenses made up the bulk of the felony charges in Rosemount with 31. Felony DWI and theft-related offenses were the next most common with nine.
Countywide, drug offenses made up about 20 percent of the entire felony caseload.
In 2008. The county charged 414 individuals with felony drug crimes, compared to 618 in 2007.
The DWI number is high for a city Rosemount's size. Inver Grove Heights and Lakeville each had eight charges for DWI offenses last year. Burnsville had seven.
"That's just a reflection of the emphasis we put on (DWI enforcement)," Kalstabakken said.
Apple Valley was the only jurisdiction that showed an increase in numbers, 159 to 173.
Overall, Kalstabakken believe Rosemount is a safe city.
"We continue to work hard at it and keep the community safe," he said.
Efforts have helped
Backstrom cites legislative action as a major factor in the reduction of drug offenses.
"The control over the sales of ephedrine and pseudo ephedrine, enacted by the Minnesota Legislature in 2005, is one of the main reasons why the number of meth charges and labs have dropped so significantly in our community," Backstrom said.
Large amounts of methamphetamine continue to be produced in Mexico, however, and are smuggled into this country and illegally distributed here, he said.
Prevention and public awareness efforts about the meth problem have also been a factor in reducing its use, according to Backstrom. The Dakota County Public Health Department, in connection with the attorney's office and the sheriff's office, has held public forums and presentations over the past three years. Meth-use prevention and public awareness have also been key objectives of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association.
"To effectively reduce methamphetamine use, we need a coordinated strategy of enforcement, treatment and prevention, and everyone in the community needs to be aware of the extent of this serious problem," Backstrom said.
The illegal manufacture, distribution and possession of drugs continue to negatively impact the overall public health and safety of our communities, Backstrom said. People who are addicted to drugs commit many drug-related crimes.
Backstrom works with Dakota County Community Corrections, judges, law enforcement and other criminal justice professionals to identify and implement policies and procedures to more effectively and efficiently address repeat and nonviolent drug offenders. The collaborative efforts led to the establishment in September of the Dakota County's first adult drug court. The goal of the drug court is to resolve cases in a more proactive way, holding offenders accountable with an emphasis on needed treatment and reducing the number of repeat offenders.
The Dakota County Drug Task Force has also had an impact in reducing the number of drug charges. The task force consists of officers from the sheriff's office, and police departments in the cities of Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Farmington, Hastings, Inver Grove Heights, Lakeville, Mendota Heights, Rosemount, South St. Paul, West St. Paul and Savage.