This week, Commissioner Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander, Mayor Jacob Frey, and other officials hosted a press conference to announce some genuinely great news – violent crime in Minneapolis is falling fast. 

Here’s the report they released when announcing the results, which showed that crime in Minneapolis is down this year in major categories like shootings, homicides, and carjackings. The report attributes that success to the newly launched Operation Endeavor, which recently wrapped up its fourth week of operation. However, it did leave out one key detail – that decrease in crime did not start last month when Operation Endeavor kicked off. 

As far as I can tell from public statements from city officials, the two primary components of Operation Endeavor are 1) increased collaboration across several different jurisdictions and departments, and 2) an increased use of data to more efficiently distribute resources to fight crime. These are both genuinely proven strategies for combating crime. They’ll show up in just about anything you’ll read about effective policing. They’re so common, in fact, that if these are indeed new approaches, it may be worth questioning why both of these things weren’t happening before, particularly as we faced a large uptick in violent crime in 2021.

The longer term crime drop is most apparent when looking at major violent crimes involving guns. There has been a substantial decrease in guns being fired in the city this year (reports of shots fired are down 17% on the year) and people that have been shot (the number of gunshot victims is down 13%) which has resulted in a large decline in homicides (which are down 18%). 

Here’s a look at the last few months leading up to Endeavor’s launch compared to the same months of 2021:

The recent carjacking numbers (which are down 2% on the year), are the one place at first glance where the numbers look especially good in the context of when Endeavor launched:

However, diving deeper into the long-term carjacking numbers, there was a really important moment that happened last fall and winter that’s worth tracking here. 

September, October, November, and December of 2021 were the four months with the most carjackings since the city began tracking it as a separate metric in 2020, shortly before we launched our carjacking map that shows August - December carjackings in Southwest Minneapolis from last year.

Here’s a look at the data from each month:

When you see the year-over-year data in October and the months to come, it’s important to keep that in mind, as we will hopefully continue to see some very large drops from the spike that happened at the end of last year.

Here’s a look at overall numbers from the city’s crime dashboard – in total, it’s a bit more of a mixed bag on the year than these major crimes would indicate, with some crimes declining and others increasing. But fewer people getting shot, fewer people getting killed, fewer people getting their cars stolen at gunpoint, and fewer robberies is something to celebrate in and of itself:

Here are a few questions we've been asked about crime and crime data that we’ve attempted to answer as best we could.

Where are we at compared to early 2019? Most of the 2022 numbers are still higher than they were in 2019 (though burglaries, sex offenses, and stolen property offenses have all fallen below their 3 year averages). In the Spring of 2020, three things happened at the same time that make comparisons to anything beforehand somewhat useless:

  • A global pandemic that massively disrupted routings, schedules, community programs, and lives.
  • The murder of George Floyd and the uprising that followed.
  • A massive explosion in gun sales. 

Here’s a look at the national context during that time period, which very quickly shows that this isn’t a Minneapolis or a Minnesota issue – the increase was part of a national trend. Here’s a deeper look

How should the weather impact monthly changes? Month-over-month statistics (comparing this month’s data to the previous month) are basically garbage in cold weather climates. Crime almost always goes down into the late fall and winter as the temperature declines. Looking at year-over-year numbers (like we did above, comparing this August to last August) is a much better way to do it.

How do things look nationally? Some cities have seen large upticks in homicides while Minneapolis has seen its numbers decline. Cities like Charlotte, New Orleans, Phoenix, Seattle, and Denver are all facing an increase in homicides of more than 20% this year. On the other side of the coin, our numbers look somewhat similar to a few other cities. In New York City, shootings and murders are down while other crimes are up. In Chicago, shootings and murders are down while other types of crimes are up

So, who or what should get the credit for the fall in violent crime? Lots of people and things, probably. Beyond more effective policing and prosecution, violence interrupters and community groups have seen their budgets continue to grow. Non-police responses to crime have finally become a core part of the city’s response. Block clubs and groups that do eyes-on-the-street neighborhood watch programs are growing. People’s routines have been a bit more normal as the pandemic has waned. 

It’s possible that Operation Endeavor is working really well, and if crime continues to fall, we should all be cheering for that. But it’s good for us to all start with a bit of a mutual understanding of the numbers before we go much further. The data from the last few months show that it’s not really quite as simple as the press conference tried to make it sound.