SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Six months into 2023, there hasn’t been a homicide investigation in Sioux Falls. 

And according to Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken, besides aggravated assaults, almost all other crimes have seen decreases per capita halfway through the year. TenHaken said a data figure he constantly watches is the number of crimes committed per capita. 

“Crime is often a byproduct of growth. We’ve had record growth over the last couple of years,” TenHaken said. “I am always happy to report, and the last couple years have been no exception, it’s very manageable. Our crime per capita numbers continue to stay pretty flat.” 

TenHaken joined KELOLAND’s Tom Hanson for a 20-minute interview inside the KELOLAND Media Group studio for this week’s episode of Inside KELOLAND. In the four videos attached above, you can watch TenHaken share his thoughts on crime, potholes, streets, population growth and tourism. 

Sioux Falls remains safe 

TenHaken, who is in the middle of his sixth year as mayor of Sioux Falls, admitted the topic of crime is one his office spends the most time addressing. 

“In my opinion, a safe community is the number one thing residents expect from the government,” TenHaken said. “If you see something, you see nefarious activity, you have someone that you know has been part of a crime, we need you to report that to law enforcement to help us solve cases and get bad guys off the streets.” 

TenHaken said his office played a role in helping get a new law passed in South Dakota called “truth in sentencing.” TenHaken said that new law should help stop convicted criminals from getting out of prison earlier than they should. 

“I’m not a lock him up and throw away the key guy, but you get a 10-year sentence for a violent aggravated assault, you need to serve some of that time and get rehabilitated,” TenHaken said, specifically pointing to a specific October 2022 homicide.   

In a discussion about 2022 crime numbers, Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum said 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.

“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 in early March when discussing crime data.

Stolen vehicles in Sioux Falls have been well above the national average of 23%, peaking at 45% in 2021. TenHaken said he believes people are hearing the message to not leave cars unlocked in the city. 

“We’re finally starting to get the stolen vehicle thing under control,” TenHaken said. “We have pounded that message for the last couple of years because we see stolen guns out of cars. When people leave their car open, it’s just ripe for a burglary.” 

TenHaken said shootings are more common in the city but he said the shootings often involved “emerging adults” and people age 18 to 24. 

“A lot of times these guns are not legally obtained. They’re stolen guns,” TenHaken said. “Owning a gun comes with responsibility. Just like owning a home comes with responsibility. You’re going to buy a firearm, you as a citizen, have a responsibility to protect that and keep that safe.” 

This week, the Sioux Falls airport announced it found its fourth gun at the airport. Minnehaha County Sheriff Captain Adam Zishka told KELOLAND News the incident involved a gun that was reported stolen.

TenHaken highlighted the importance of getting law enforcement enough resources and staffing as the city grows. He said drug use is often involved in 90% of every violent crime committed in Sioux Falls. 

“If I can wave a magic wand and fix one thing in the city Sioux Falls, change one thing, it’d be that narcotics are gone,” TenHaken said. “It’s why you saw me be somewhat bullish on cannabis and cannabis dispensaries and that whole topic.” 

Potholes, Veterans Parkway construction 

Sioux Falls typically averages around $10.1 million for snow removal in the city budget. Through the first three months of 2023, the city has used $8.9 million from three different snow alerts in 2023. 

Sioux Falls averages 41.2 inches of snow each winter. In the 2022-23 winter, Sioux Falls received 64.8 inches of snow. With more snow, came more potholes on city streets. 

“Death, taxes and potholes,” TenHaken said. “Three things you can count on in South Dakota.” 

TenHaken said potholes are inevitable and the city has filled more than 4,000 pothole requests in 2023. The mayor joked he has an unfilled pothole at the end of his driveway. 

This week, construction officially started on South Veterans Parkway, which will connect Interstate 90 in northeastern Sioux Falls to Interstate 29 in southern Sioux Falls. 

“It’s going to transform our cities. It’s going to connect Sioux Falls, Harrisburg Tea and Brandon into one true MSA,” TenHaken said. “A decade from now and we’re driving around, you don’t know where Tea starts and Harrisburg stops and Sioux Falls begins. We’re going to be one metro community.” 

Construction value still high, more mixed-use buildings

TenHaken said Sioux Falls construction value totaled $377 million through the month of April. He said that number is more than Bosie, Idaho ($240), Omaha, Nebraska ($330) and Rapid City ($150). 

“We’re slower than last year, but comparatively, we’re still killing it,” TenHaken said, adding multi-family housing units are being built on a lot of edges of the city. 

TenHaken said he believes mixed-use buildings will continue to increase in Sioux Falls. City councilors voted to approve three types of mixed-use building in zoning areas considered in Sioux Falls “urban core.” The “urban core” makes up most of the area in between 41st Street to the south, Russell Street to the north, Western Avenue to the west and Cliff Avenue to the east.  

A rendering of a midtown mixed-use building for MU-2 (minimum of 4 stories or 6 stories.)

Mixed-use buildings use commercial space on the first floor and residential space on the floors above it that range from three stories tall to seven stories tall. 

“People who live in mixed use buildings like it,” he said. “They like having the opportunity for some retail or a restaurant or a coffee shop within their own building.” 

This past week, the city announced donations to the Jacobson Plaza which will connect Falls Park West and the Levitt Shell in downtown Sioux Falls. Private donations and $3 million from the city of Sioux Falls will help the $16.5 project start construction this year. 

T. Denny Sanford will also donate up to $1.5 million to build the T. Denny Sanford Splash Pad at Jacobson Plaza. TenHaken said he doesn’t believe there’s much pushback about the names attached to all the donations. 

“We got a strong history of Sioux Falls and people giving back to the community, having their names on things,” TenHaken said. “I think that’s part of what’s made Sioux Falls great.” 

Tourism growing in Sioux Falls 

In 2022, southeastern South Dakota outpaced the Black Hills and western South Dakota for tourism spending. 

TenHaken said he believes there’s a lot of success in youth sports tourism and an urban appeal. 

“We got an incredible downtown that people love to spend time in,” TenHaken said. “Our food scene and restaurant scene is really growing and is taken off and in some cases is becoming nationally known.” 

TenHaken said changes around Falls Park, including the Sioux Steel District, phase three of the River Greenway and Jacobson Plaza, will continue to help enhance tourism in Sioux Falls. 

“We have to continue to keep investing in these quality-of-life initiatives,” TenHaken said. “There’s something for everybody here from a tourism standpoint. I think that’s why we’re seeing that grow.” 

TenHaken said he believes the vibrancy of the community is unmatched. He highlighted Sioux Falls is now the 121st largest city in the United States, up from 130th in the last census. 

“We’re getting a little larger compared to our peers,” TenHaken said. “That is what makes Sioux Falls special – the spirit of we get stuff done here.”