The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

June 14, 2014

Mankato makes case for more police officers

As minor crimes plummet, city seeks campus presence

MANKATO — Non-violent crime has fallen precipitously in Mankato over the last decade, and the city wants to hire more officers to continue that trend.

Such crimes, which include assaults without serious injuries, have fallen by about 43 percent, to 2,902, since 2004. That’s all the more noteworthy as the population rose by 17.5 percent since then.

The city is crediting its community policing strategy of working with residents to prevent crime, for its attention to liquor-related misbehavior and for recent policy changes, including video cameras and rental regulations.

“We saw a trend and we went after that trend and I think it’s made some progress but we’re by no means there,” City Manager Pat Hentges said.

The city is likely benefiting from larger tailwinds, considering that non-violent crimes have declined by about 22 percent statewide between 2004 and 2012.

The rate of violent crime in Mankato hasn’t dropped — it sat just above its 10-year average in 2013 — but that can be considered progress considering the increase in population.

Public safety staff are asking for three new police officers in the 2015 budget, at a cost of $300,000. The officers would boost late-night patrols and university security while adding a middle-school liaison officer.	

The city would also like Minnesota State University to pay for some of the added cost, as some other universities in Minnesota do.

“Do I think that MSU should be a part of that, be a partner and fund it?” Public Safety Director Todd Miller asked. “Yes, I do.”

There are no sworn police officers on campus, which Miller calls “a bit of an oversight,” considering that it has more than 15,000 students.

Hentges said Mankato needs more of a police presence downtown and near MSU in part because that’s where young people congregate. People aged 18-24 commit 40 percent of less serious crimes, and they’re more likely to be victims, as well.

And 24 percent of the city’s population is in that age range, compared to a national average of 7 percent, Hentges said.

The City Council will hear more about the request, and the recent history of crime in Mankato, during its June 23 meeting.

 

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