The new U.S. attorney for Minnesota announced Tuesday that his office will refocus its efforts to combat violent crime in the Twin Cities by increasing resources and pursuing and prosecuting suspected adult carjackers at the federal level.
In introducing the “federal violent crime plan,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger was joined by many federal and local law enforcement officials, including the police chiefs of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
“Every Minnesotan deserves the right to live in peace and security, free from the threat of shootings, carjackings, and violence,” Luger said from the federal courthouse in Minneapolis.
Luger, who took office on March 30, promised to “refocus the entire office around the effort to combat violent crime.” Every federal prosecutor will now add violent crime cases to their normal responsibilities, he added. He also stated that the attorney’s office will recruit five to eight new prosecutors “who will join this struggle.” There are now 42 criminal prosecutors in the office.
According to Luger, the increased resources will allow the office to pursue adult carjacking offenders rather than minors “for the time being.”
All adult carjacking cases will be brought to federal prosecutors by federal law enforcement and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and “as long as they match our legislation,” he added, “we will prosecute them under federal law.” Carjackers who are convicted will be sentenced to federal prison.
While Luger is “acutely aware” that prosecution and jail are “not the only strategy for decreasing violent crime,” he believes they are “crucial components.”
Carjackings used to be so uncommon that police didn’t bother to track them separately from robberies or car thefts. However, as the numbers grew larger, departments began to retain separate tally sheets.
And the figures are bleak. Carjackings were recorded in St. Paul 55 times in 2019, 73 times in 2020, and 101 times last year. In 2021, there were approximately 650 carjackings in Minneapolis.
They’re happening all throughout the metro region, often in broad daylight, Luger said, leaving victims and communities traumatized.
“What we’re witnessing are savage attacks on men and women in the backseat with children,” he added. “This type of operation is carried out by organized, prepared organizations. They’re stealing money from people’s cellular accounts and their credit cards. And they’re making a difference in people’s lives. And it needs to come to an end.”
The effort, according to Luger, also prioritizes the prosecution of illegal gun crimes, such as the recent spate of cases involving “auto sears,” or “switches,” that convert pistols to fully automatic weapons; illegal possession of firearms and/or ammunition; firearms trafficking cases; and black market “straw purchasing.”
“This office already prosecutes numerous unlawful firearms cases,” he added. “We will prosecute significantly more under this new policy.”
A new gang prosecution team will work hand-in-hand with law enforcement to combat gang violence, which Luger described as “plaguing the metro.”
He stated, “We cannot let this epidemic of violence to continue.” “As a result, we are approaching this mission with urgency and have joined forces to give leadership in the fight against violent crime.”
According to Michael Paul, special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Minneapolis, the FBI is collaborating with local law enforcement agencies to track down armed robbers and pursue prosecution under the Hobbs Act.
Federal prosecutors frequently utilize the Hobbs Act to heighten the penalty for a certain type of offense. Prosecutors merely need to show that the offense’s natural consequences would have an impact on interstate trade.
“Those who are conducting these senseless acts of violence will be found, taken off the street, and held accountable,” Paul added.
Felons and other persons who are forbidden from carrying weapons, according to ATF Special Agent in Charge William McCrary, who has overseen the agency’s St. Paul field office since last year, yet manage to get one or more.
“The United States Attorney’s Office’s full assistance will assist us in obtaining the necessary prosecution to take dangerous felons off the streets and away from the hardworking people in our town,” he added.
Sheriff Bob Fletcher of Ramsey County said that he had met with Luger to discuss his plans.
“To battle crime trends, we need more leadership like his,” Fletcher said on Tuesday.
He expects information to spread rapidly among criminals, and that it will “have a big influence on the violent culture.”
At the same time, Fletcher stated that most localities had a scarcity of cops.
“This is harmeding our capacity to solve crimes… “Because we have to apprehend criminals in order to initiate federal prosecutions,” Fletcher explained. “Investigative work necessitates manpower.”
On Tuesday, former United States Attorney Rachel Kunjummen Paulose praised Luger and his office, saying the initiative acknowledges that violent crime in the Twin Cities is “out of control,” and that the federal government has a responsibility to play in tackling the surge.
“My expertise with our federal law enforcement agencies, including the ATF, FBI, and DEA, which will be important to the success of this endeavor,” said Kunjummen Paulose, now a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. “I am optimistic that this endeavor will result in much-needed change.”