SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The chances for Sioux Falls residents to be a victim of a major crime such as rape, robbery or theft have not increased in the past six months, city officials said in a Tuesday crime update.

But, police are seeing a 14% increase in crimes using a gun or another type of weapon, chief Jon Thum said.

Such crimes are not “directed to random people,” Thum said. Instead, crimes involving weapons are typically among known associates, he said.

The trend is that individuals, including younger individuals, are more willing to use a weapon than they were several years ago, Thum said.

A simple assault several years ago is now more often an aggravated assault because of the use of a weapon.

Perpetrators are 16 and older but even younger than 16, Thum said.

“Young people don’t always make the best decisions,” Thum said.

Even when the initial call incident doesn’t mention a gun, police officers are “not even surprised to take a gun off them,” Thum said.

Sioux Falls isn’t the only city experiencing an increase in assaults involving weapons or more severe physical harm, Thum said.

Early intervention is needed to help make sure children don’t view the use of a gun or weapon as an accepted practice, Thum said.

“It’s an alarming trend,” Thum said. There is no room for making use of a gun or other weapon seem glamorous or acceptable, he said.

Chronic absenteeism in school, for example, can be linked to dropout rates which links to increased risk for criminal activity for an individual.

School attendance and engagement in school and school activities is important because young people who are connected in a community are more likely to be good citizens, Thum said.

The crime data shared Tuesday are from January through August.

Aggravated assaults increased from 375 in 2022 to 429 in 2023.

The city saw a decline in the number of larcenies from 4,108 in 2022 to 3,942 in 2023. There was also a decline in robberies from 115 to 95. Rapes decreased from 58 to 49 in 2023.

Stolen vehicles have been the focus of a police campaign to encourage owners to lock their vehicles and remove valuables, including guns, from the vehicle.

“Yeah we are going to talk about stolen vehicles again,” Thum said during the crime report.

There have been 1,050 stolen vehicles so far this year.

Thum said 82% of the stolen vehicles have their keys in them. Many of the stolen vehicles are used in other crimes, he said.

In 2022, the city had a number of burglaries in vape and smoke shops, Thum said. Those type of burglaries have decreased in 2023. The overall decline is robbery is 20 from 560 in 2022 to 540 this year.

Calls for service

Police responded to 86,526 calls for service through August. That’s similar to the three prior years. But, the size of the police department has expanded while calls for service have not increased significantly.

Thum said the calls for service indicate that the public has learned more about what is a police matter and what it’s not.

Another reason for growth in the department is that calls for service take more time, he said.

It takes more time to complete more required paperwork and process evidence, for example.

The city has also grown in physical size which means more time on city streets, Thum said.

Police typically respond to 128,000 calls a year.

The number of calls and the flat or decrease in many major crimes is a good sign for Sioux Falls, Mayor Paul TenHaken said during the crime report.

“This remains a very safe city,” TenHaken said.

Domestic assault focus

Domestic assault declined from 313 in 2022 to 276.

Assaults related to domestic assault overall are down, including aggravated and simple, Thum said.

He attributed that decline to partnerships the police have with various agencies that work with domestic assault victims.

Minnehaha County States Attorney Daniel Haggar said domestic assaults will be a focus for his office.

Haggar said 1 in 4 South Dakota residents experiences partner violence. “We can do better than that,” he said.

The office will continue to work with various partners to identify those who may be at risk of domestic violence, he said.

Obstacles to helping include cultural norms in which there is no discussion of domestic violence or the fear a partner may go to jail, Haggar said.

Language can also be a challenge if those at risk do not speak English as a first language, he said.

Drugs, overdose, suicide

“If you live in this town and haven’t heard that fentanyl is bad for you, I don’t know where you’ve been,” Thum said.

Law enforcement has seized 820 grams of fentanyl this year. To compare, the full years of 2022 and 2021 were used. Law enforcement seized 974 grams in 2022 and 2,028 in 2021.

“We (had) a very big spike in cocaine,” Thum said. Law enforcement have seized 2,440 grams of cocaine compared to 905 in all of last year.

There’s also been an uptick in heroin with 28 grams seized so far this year compared to 24 in all of 2022.

The number of drug overdoses that law enforcement has responded to has declined. That defies national trends, Thum said.

There were nine overdose death incidents known to police. During the same time frame last year, there were 21.

TenHaken said one area of interest in particular for him is suicides. “…unfortunately those are up quite dramatically,” he said.

There were 15 in the same time frame of 2022 compared to 26 this year.

“We know the impact of that,” Thum said of suicides.

TenHaken wanted to remind the public about available resources including the 988 helpline call and others.