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Rise In M'Haha Co. Crime May Lead To Higher Taxes

February 7, 2014, 10:00 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Rise In M'Haha Co. Crime May Lead To Higher Taxes

You can tell the crime rate in Minnehaha County is on the rise by the stacks of criminal files on the desk of State's Attorney Aaron McGowan.

"A lot of days we're just trying to stay above water," McGowan said.

In the first five weeks of 2014 the office has opened up more than 1,100 new cases, and this week alone McGowan had to file dozens of charges in serious cases - including twenty charges against a man accused of beating up three Sioux Falls Police officers on Wednesday.

"We are ahead of where we were the same time last year. We've seen a very steady growth in the number of felony files we've opened," McGowan said.

"I think we're in the midst of a crime wave that's lasted more than a year and has gotten very little attention," Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth said.

Barth was in Pierre Friday to lobby for a bill that would allow a steady three to four percent increase in property taxes every year; money that would help pay for the increase in law enforcement costs.

"Our law enforcement budget has gone from 30 percent of the budget in 1990 to 55 percent of the county budget today," Barth said.

Unlike the City of Sioux Falls which is funded by a steadily-growing sales tax, the county has to depend on property taxes.

"At the county level we didn't get any new attorneys even though there are additional police officers out there making arrests," McGowan said.

As commissioners try to find a way to pay for the increase in crime McGowan says his office will continue to sort through the thousands of files that come in.

"We have some very dedicated hard-working lawyers in this office and we'll continue to do absolutely everything we can to aggressively prosecute these cases and keep our community safe," McGowan said.

Because of the increase in crime the county is also looking at building a new jail which could cost tens of millions of dollars.

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