SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) – Mayor Paul Tenhaken, Minnehaha County Sheriff Michael Milstead, South Dakota State’s Attorney Daniel Haggar, and Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum reported on crime trends in Sioux Falls.
Cyclical crimes and firearms in the community
Mayor Tehaken said overall, Sioux Falls is considered a safe community. However, there is an increasing crime trend of having more firearms, “We are a state that loves the second amendment, as do I, but there are more firearms, and there’s also more people that quite honestly are willing to use firearms.”
The combination of increased circulating firearms, unlocked car burglaries, and repeat parole absconders has authorities worried.
“I have never been more concerned about the safety of our men and women in uniform than I am today,” said Minnehaha County Sheriff Michael Milstead. “The Mayor pointed out we still live in a very safe community, and I agree 100%, but the issue that we’re facing is more and more dangerous individuals who are carrying guns and willing to use them.”
Mayor Tenhaken asked community members to do their part in preventing crimes saying, “Sam Clemens is up here ad nauseam, telling people to lock their car doors because one of the number one things that’s stolen out of unlocked cars are guns.”
High concentration of repeat offenders
One unique issue that Sioux Falls and Rapid City face is that parole services are not available in rural areas. Offenders from rural regions have to stay in the cities for their parole supervision. Authorities discussed possibly funding projects to expand parole services to more rural areas in the future.
Sheriff Milstead said the number of parole absconders is well over 400, and they are some of the most dangerous people who are ready to run from officers, sometimes in stolen vehicles, since they know if they are caught, they will go back to jail. Milstead said it’s a very high-risk situation for officers.
According to the South Dakota drug taskforce statistics, 25 firearms were seized from drug offenders last year, and 19 of those individuals were using methamphetamine.
South Dakota State’s Attorney Daniel Haggar is among the authorities asking for the community to create narrower opportunities for these crimes to take place.
“Make it hard for people to commit violent crime,” said Attorney Haggar. “Get involved, mentor those people.”
Drugs in the community
Mayor Tenhaken and Sheriff Milstead expressed their concerns about legalizing marijuana.
“If we think that legalizing marijuana in the fall is going to lead to a safer community, we have another thing coming,” said Mayor Tenhaken. “If introducing another vice and another class one narcotic is going to lead to a safer community, if you think that’s the case… It’s not the case.”
Mayor Tenhaken said if there is evidence that marijuana has benefited communities trying to raise a family, he welcomes that input. Still, no evidence of this kind has been presented to him.
Sheriff Milstead agreed, saying marijuana is not for South Dakota.
“For you to take a position of leadership on the topic of marijuana, recreational marijuana is bold, and I think it was something the public needs to hear and needs to understand, and it’s something I support 100%,” said Sheriff Milstead.
Sheriff Milstead said there is a connection between the use of illegal drugs and violent crimes that take place in the community. In particular, South Dakota has methamphetamine, fentanyl, and high THC marijuana.
Over the past year, there was a 40% increase in overdose deaths that came from fentanyl or methamphetamine use, according to Milstead.
Help from the community
The calls for service have been steady at approximately 80,000 per year, and the fact that that number is not necessarily increasing as the population increases- is a good sign. Also, people have been reporting more crimes online, which shows that the community is involved in preventing crime, and they are doing so efficiently.
There is no increasing trend in homicides, with five this year. The number of aggravated assaults and domestic assaults has plateaued around 300-375. Chief Thum said there had been multiple cases where the suspect was known to the victim, but the victim would not disclose who the person was. Thum says officers noticed it is usually the people you love, commit crimes with, or do drugs with that become the aggressors.
“We’re seeing again this alarming rise of, especially amongst young people, to some code of snitching, or some code of not cooperating.” Chief Thum especially wanted to address youth, saying, by not cooperating, the suspects “get the opportunity to keep committing violent crimes again and again and producing multiple victims.”
Mayor Tenhaken said there is a need for funding jails and prisons, and Minnehaha County invested a lot of money into the jail systems.