Simplified: The number of crimes – both violent and nonviolent – committed in Sioux Falls has remained relatively steady, despite population growth, according to data released by the Sioux Falls Police Department this week. But law enforcement officials say the big issues to worry about are repeat offenders, stolen guns and the prevalence of drugs.
Why it matters
- The rate of calls to police isn't growing at the same rate as the Sioux Falls population, Chief Jon Thum said Monday during an annual presentation of city crime statistics.
- Things also got a bit political in the crime discussion. City and county officials used the press conference Monday as a platform to share opposition to a statewide ballot measure that would legalize marijuana, express concern about the state's parole system and express discontent with national border security.
- What was consistent across the officials that presented was a concern about the number of re-offenders in the justice system, the number of stolen guns on the street, and the increase in overdose deaths – especially as it relates to fentanyl.
"You have a better chance (0f survival) with Russian roulette," Milstead said of fentanyl, noting a national study that showed one in four fentanyl pills carries a lethal dose.
Give me a breakdown of the crime stats
Overall, violent crime took a slight dip in 2021, but this year's numbers show a slight increase – bringing crime back on trend with where it was in 2020.
Here's a quick look at some stats:
- Online reporting is up: More people took to the police department website to report non-emergent crimes.
- Assaults are up: Both aggravated and simple assaults are up. Thum said the biggest concern on this point is that several of the victims have been uncooperative, which makes it nearly impossible for police to find suspects and solve these assault cases.
- Rape is down: Sioux Falls police saw a 33 percent decrease in the number of rapes reported from January to August this year compared to 2021.
- Theft is up: Larceny (general stealing) is up about 13 percent year-over-year. Robbery (stealing that involves a weapon/use of force) is also up significantly – about a 50 percent increase from 2021 and a 28 percent increase from 2020. Burglary (stealing that involves a break-in) is relatively flat year-over-year. And the number of stolen vehicles went up.
- Drug seizures are down: After a record year last year, seizures of both methamphetamine and fentanyl are down so far in 2022.
- Seeing more repeat-offenders: Milstead shared that 41 percent of people in the county jail are also on probation or parole. He's also shared there's another 400 parole absconders that officials have lost track of.
Overall takeaway? Sioux Fall is safe, unless you're already mixed up in the justice system or using drugs, Minnehaha County State's Attorney Daniel Haggar said.
"If you are not involved in the drug community, we live in a safe community," he added.
What were the other big topics/concerns officials mentioned?
Drugs from Mexico: For Sheriff Milstead, the biggest concern was the security of the country's southern border.
- Milstead referenced a national drug threat assessment the DEA released last year as evidence that Mexico is a source of many drugs entering the country.
Legal marijuana: Mayor Paul TenHaken took a stance against Initiated Measure 27 – a measure on the November ballot that, if passed, would legalize recreational marijuana in the state.
Need for more rehabilitation: Chief Thum noted that police want people to be successful after they leave jail or prison. The trick, he said, is there aren't enough services to help people who are struggling with mental health, addiction or simply re-entering society after incarceration.
What about officer-involved shootings?
It's not a topic that came up during the official press conference Monday.
- But Councilor Rich Merkouris asked Thum about it during Tuesday's City Council informational meeting – which took place just shy of 24 hours after the most recent officer-involved shooting in town. (A teenager was shot after pointing a fake gun at an officer. Argus Leader has the story.)
Sioux Falls has seen eight officer involved shootings in the last 12 months. That's more than the the city's seen in the last two decades.
"We're almost to the point where we're kinda looking at these numbers and saying, 'Well what exactly is happening here?'" Thum said. "Rather than get caught up in the numbers, you have to look at each individual situation and how it unfolded."
What happens next?
It's business as usual for the police department, sheriff's office and state's attorney's office.
It is possible – even likely – though, that we see issues like parole and probation come up in the 2023 state legislative session.