Simplified: The latest crime statistics from the Sioux Falls Police Department show little change in the amount of both violent and property crime happening per capita in the city. What is changing, though, is how the city, state and legal systems are working together.
Why it matters
- The amount of crime isn't keeping pace with population growth. That is to say: yes, crime is increasing slightly year-over-year, but with as many folks coming to town as there have been, one would expect it to be going up a lot more.
- After concerns last year about an increasing number of repeat offenders, officials got together to propose a "truth in sentencing" bill to set stricter limits on parole. (That bill – Senate Bill 146 – now awaits Gov. Kristi Noem's signature.)
- That bill came from a recently formed group of Minnehaha and Pennington County officials called "Safe South Dakota." It's made up of mayors, sheriffs, state's attorneys, representatives from the governor's office and the unified judicial system, and others, Mayor Paul TenHaken said Tuesday.
"I believe this is the first time the state of South Dakota has had something with this level of collaboration," TenHaken said.
Tell me more about the 'truth in sentencing' bill
If you want a deep-dive explainer, you're going to need to consult South Dakota Searchlight reporter John Hult's story here.
But, simplified, here's what SB 146 would do (if signed by the governor):
- The bill outlines 13 violent crimes that would no longer be eligible for parole. That means if someone is sentenced for those crimes, they're serving the full sentence (with the very limited exception of those granted compassionate parole).
- The bill also lays out certain percentages of sentences that must be served, depending on the severity of the crime. So, for example, someone sentenced for aggravated assault has to serve 85 percent of their sentence.
"What this bill primarily does is it helps restore faith in our criminal justice system with victims," Minnehaha County State's Attorney Daniel Haggar said.
Ok, so if this bill gets signed, is the work then done?
The limits on parole was only part of the equation for this Safe South Dakota group, TenHaken said.
- The other side of the coin is rehabilitation.
Lawmakers have already reached out to talk about next steps and possible legislation for next year's session, Haggar said.
"If you just have a system that only focuses on punishment, that’s going to be a broken system," Haggar said Tuesday. "If you only have a system that says, 'We’re only going to rehabilitate. We don't care about those victims,' That's a broken system."