MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The rising crime rates in the Twin Cities has gotten the attention of federal agents.
Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger joined officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the F.B.I and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension at the courthouse in Minneapolis to make the announcement.READ MORE: Next Weather: Top 10 Weather Day Going Into Weekend, But Severe Storms Possible Sunday
“We’re hoping that this warning, that this activity, causes people to stop, because up until now, the federal government hasn’t weighed in fully, hasn’t weighed in at the level we are now,” Luger said.
The changes include beefing up the U.S. Attorney’s Office with more people and requiring every prosecutor in the office to take on violent crime cases in addition to all of their other work. Violent crimes cases include those related to illegal gun sales, gun violence, gangs and carjackings.
Luger said in 2021 more than 650 carjackings happened in Minneapolis alone. St. Paul experienced more than 100 carjackings last year.
Also, starting Tuesday, anyone 18 years and older who is involved in violent carjackings in Minnesota will face federal charges that carry stiffer sentences, which would mean they would serve time in federal prison if convicted.
Of all the 2021 carjackings in Minneapolis, police say at least 14 minors were arrested, multiple times, ranging in ages 12 to 16.
Luger’s office can only prosecute adults, 18 and older, but says he hopes this sends a warning to those minors.
“This plague of violence cannot continue,” he said. “We cannot normalize shootings, carjackings and other instances as part of our daily lives. It is causing far too much fear, too much pain and too much heartbreak for families and our community.”READ MORE: Project Safe Neighborhoods Launches To Get Guns Off Streets
Luger also announced the formation of a gang prosecution team that now meets regularly to focus on the most violent criminals.
From victim to advocate, Julie Wicklund took the trauma of an armed home invasion last December.
“An individual came into our home, holding a gun and demanding that I turn over our car keys,” Wicklund said.
She took that trauma, and put it into action by forming a group of thousands of other victims of violent crimes in Minneapolis, called “Safe Streets Now for a Better Tomorrow.”
“To try to amplify victims’ voices, identify the gaps in the system and try to push for change,” Wicklund said.
Change that finally came Tuesday when Lugar announced his commitment to crack down and federally prosecute violent crimes in this state.
“We were all cheering and clapping and saying, ‘Finally!’” Wicklund said. “We all feel a feeling of hope, especially victims, and I immediately feel safer.”MORE NEWS: Rentable Backyard Beehives All The Buzz As They Bolster Pollinators
Law enforcement leaders also announced Tuesday a first wave of criminal charges to recent cases in the state, with more expected in the coming weeks and months.