SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As Sioux Falls grows, so will crime. It’s logical, said Sioux Falls Police Chief Matt Burns.
“I do know the numbers, it would be counter intuitive to believe that the overall numbers are going to go down when the population keeps going up,” Burns said.
The police department finished 2020 by handling a record 13 murders and an increase in violent crime. The increase in violent crime may have been a blip as the numbers could decrease in 2021. The city had a similar spike in 2016 followed by a decrease in 2017, except with murders.
But the police chief isn’t saying that because crime growth will follow population growth the department will watch it happen.
Police need to continue with intentional public safety efforts and investments and to build relationships with all persons, including those who don’t always intend to be a good neighbor, Burns said.
“Not everybody coming into our city is coming here to be a good neighbor,” Burns said.
But police want all residents to enjoy what most people love about the city and if “they are not quite there yet, we need to try and figure out how to get them there,” Burns said.
Sioux Falls has grown by an average of about 4,000 people since 2010, according to city records. That growth along with the growth in the overall Sioux Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area that also includes at least parts of McCook and Turner County as well as Lincoln and Minnehaha County will have an impact on the crime rate.
So far, the rate of reported crime incidents has not outpaced the rate of population growth.
“… in analyzing these ups and downs and if it starts to cross that line of growth then I’m going to get real concerned. Because that’s a point where there is a real disconnect somewhere or we are missing something,” Burns said.
Sioux Falls: Set records for murders, increase in violent, property crime and fentanyl seized in 2020
The coronavirus pandemic and an increase of about 5,300 people in the past year both had a role in in the overall increase in crime in 2020 over 2019, Burns said.
While the pandemic has increased some incidents, Burns said there are some incidents involving weapons that have been increasing over the past several years.
For example, crimes in which a person uses a gun to rob a drug dealer have increased, Burns said.
“Just because more people are carrying guns,” Burns said.
“It’s not just here,” Burns said. “Sioux Falls is just seeing each share of this kind of problem that a city approaching 200,000 should expect. I don’t even think, based on our population, that we even have near like some cities of equivalent size in different parts of our country,” Burns said.
Sioux Falls had 557 reported incidents of aggravated assault in 2020 and 291 in 2014. There were 379 incidents reported in 2019. There were 902 reports of simple assault in 2020.
There were 136 robberies reported in 2020, 98 in 2019 and 119 in 2018.
The city of Des Moines, Iowa, has a population of about 215,600. The 2019 crime report posted on the police department’s website said the city had 1,074 reports of aggravated assault and 294 reported robberies.
The population of Overland Park, Kansas, is about 185,000. The city had 324 reports of aggravated assault and 1,181 reports of simple assaults. Overland Park is a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.
The city of Rockford, Illinois, has a population of about 158,600. According to its 2018 annual report, the city had 21 murders in 2019 an increase from 18 in 2018. The city did have a decrease in violent crimes from 2,1418 in 2017 to 2,154 in 2018, which was an 11% decrease.
Juveniles and crime
“Just seems more of it now. We’ve always had an amount of certainly juvenile crime and serious just seems like there is more of it now,” Burns said.
Burns cited incidents of car hopping and car thefts involving juveniles. Car hopping involves searching vehicles for items to steal.
These incidents can become serious if they involve weapons. Plus, there are other incidents involving guns and eventually those guns are used in other crimes, Burns said.
“There’s guns being taken in this incidents. Many of these guns end up being used in juvenile crimes,” Burns said.
“There’s several of these juveniles we’ve identified through our criminal investigations that do identify with local gangs…,” Burns said. The names may not be recognizable such as Latin Kings or Crips and Bloods but they have smaller organizations in Sioux Falls, Burns said.
“It is concerning,” Burns said of the incidents of juvenile crime.
“I do believe there has a been a general desensitization to violence,” Burns said. “It’s everywhere around us in our culture and if we’re not very intentional on how relating on how that’s wrong and that’s not how we conduct ourselves in a civilized society, then it kind of becomes part of the culture.”
Turning juveniles from crime takes the community and opportunities to make juveniles feel as if they belong to the community and things that give them value, Burns said.
Challenges with domestic violence
Sioux Falls had nearly four reports of simple assault domestic violence a day in 2020 with 1,313 reported.
“It is a growing concern…,” Burns said.
Sioux Falls had 1,014 reported simple domestic assaults in 2019 and 857 in 2018.
The Rockford Police Department’s annual report said 35.2% of its 2,154 violent crimes in 2018 were domestic assault incidents. The report said there were likely more domestic assaults because it is an underreported crime.
It’s also a dangerous incident for law enforcement as emotions can be high and some incidents involve a weapon.
“We try to train our officers to be extra diligent on those type of calls because they can be so volatile…,” Burns said.
According to a 2017 research report by the Dolan Consulting Group, “a 2011 study examined 3,078 domestic violence calls handled by the Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Miami-Dade
police departments. Of these calls, 117 calls (3.8%) resulted in an officer assault. That was an
average of an officer assault incident for every 26 DV calls handled.”
“Those are very dangerous calls and it’s been proven out in reality time and again across our country with devastation and horrific results on law enforcement officers,” Burns said.
The crime of drugs
Seizures of the narcotic fentanyl skyrocketed to 308.13 grams in 2020 from 47.72 grams in 2019 in Sioux Falls.
The fentanyl is synthetic. “…it is not being made here,” Burns said.
Most of it comes from overseas through traditional drug smuggling and even through the mail, he said.
Des Moines did not list fentanyl seizure on its 2019 crime report. It listed cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin.
Des Moines Police seized two pounds of heroin in 2019. It seized six pounds of cocaine and 70 pounds of methamphetamine.
Police in Rockford seized 1,800 grams of cocaine and 5,100 grams of heroin in 2018, according to the annual report.
Drug crimes are often linked to other crimes because a user may need to steal to pay for a drug habit, Burns said.
Drug use can lead to a loss of job and debt, Burns said.
Solving the crimes
Despite a spike in crime in 2020, Sioux Falls Police were able to solve many, or clear many, crimes with arrests.
Police cleared by arrest 100% of the 13 murders. Eighty-one percent of the assaults were cleared.
The city compares well to national averages and those of two other similarly-sized cities on clearance rates.
Rockford Police cleared 70% of its murders in 2019, according to an annual report.
Des Moines had 12 reported murders in 2019 and cleared 11 of those for a 91.7% clearance rate. The department cleared 17.8% of its robberies.
Sioux Falls cleared 33.8% of its robberies and 42.6% of its stolen vehicle crimes.
The national clearance rate for murder is 61.4%, 30.5% for robbery and 13.8% for stolen vehicles.
Burns said the department often has its most talented officers investigating serious crimes.
“The margins for error on those cases particularly homicide cases, those child abuse cases, those rape cases, those serious crimes is so small, the margin for error is so small. You can’t be in charge of one those cases and be sloppy,” Burns said.
Officers who investigate serious crimes are dogged and determined to get the matter resolved for the victim and department.
The other benefit in Sioux Falls is the cooperation of the community.
The cooperation is vital because there are many eyes in the community who can help police, he said.