SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum is “pleased” with where they’re at when it comes to managing crime in the city.

“But again, always recognizing that we have a lot of work to do,” Thum said Tuesday. “Kind of to the previous comment, like this is not a rest-on-your-laurels situation, this is a double down situation.”

Thum was joined by Mayor Paul TenHaken, Minnehaha Sheriff Mike Milstead and Minnehaha County State’s Attorney Daniel Haggar to discuss the 2022 crime statistics for the city of Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls grew by slightly more than 6,000 residents from 2021 to 2022, with the population sitting at 208,884 people in 2022. Between 2021 and 2022, rapes and overdose deaths both decreased.

“Our numbers are down this year on overdose deaths, but please don’t take that for granted,” Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said.

Data presented by the city shows violent and property crimes per capita, with property crime slowly on the rise since 2017 and violent crime barely up from 2021 but still under 2020’s rate. TenHaken points out it’s reasonable to expect that more people would mean more crime.

“That per capita number is one that we watch very closely and specifically on the violent crime per capita number on the bottom,” TenHaken said. “We look for dramatic changes there, dramatic swings, and we’ve been fairly consistent.”

The numbers are growing but it’s “minor growth,” the mayor explained.

“There’s a lot of communities that would love to take these numbers, and this very flat and minor growth rate,” TenHaken said.

Thum added that Sioux Falls has a crime clearance rate that is much higher than the national average when it comes to homicide, rape, assault and stolen vehicles.

Rise in crime comes from repeat offenders

Along with the population increase came an increase in burglaries, robberies, stolen vehicles, larcenies, aggravated assaults, domestic assaults and vandalism. Homicides increased slightly, from 5 to 7, but they were still notably under the 13 in 2020.

The perception may be that crime is up across the city, especially when it comes to aggravated assaults, but the context of who is committing the crimes is key, according to city officials.

“When it comes to aggravated assaults, the vast majority of people we see committing crimes in this space are no strangers to the criminal justice system,” Thum said.

One issue is what to do with repeat offenders.

“While the overall violent crime numbers aren’t rising at a dramatic pace, the number of people who are repeat offenders who are contributing to the overall number is rising,” TenHaken explained. 

That’s why TenHaken and Thum partnered up with Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender, Rapid City Police Chief Don Hedrick, and state’s attorneys and sheriffs across the state. The group informally meets to discuss similar issues with crime and work to find solutions.

“We can catch the bad guys but if the [Unified Judicial System] and court system doesn’t allow us to put the right sentences in place or the parole system lets people out who shouldn’t be out, we have a cyclical recidivism problem,” TenHaken said.

That’s why TenHaken and others supported the passage of Senate Bill 146, commonly known as the “truth in sentencing” bill. That piece of legislation, which has yet to be signed by the governor, focuses on violent crime, according to Haggar.

“It looked at those felony, violent crimes and said, okay, when someone is convicted of that and the judge says, ‘We’re going to give you 10 years,’ that’s what that individual is going to serve,” Haggar said.

TenHaken calls the policy a “tough on crime” bill.

“What we’ve seen a lot is … a lot of the times the men that we’ve arrested four, five, six, seven times, they maybe got a sentence, got out extremely early and are recommitting,” TenHaken said. 

While the bill would keep violent offenders in prison for their full sentences, TenHaken said the other piece of the puzzle is rehabilitation. These programs include the 24/7 program, pre-trial services, The Link, adult diversion programs and housing.