9 June 2022
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen announced a crime-fighting plan Thursday that would stiffen penalties for violent crime while boosting the role of the State Patrol and Minnesota National Guard in keeping order.
His 10-point proposal would create a specific crime for carjacking, which has surged in the Twin Cities area in the past couple of years. He would raise prison sentences for violent crimes and prevent nonprofit groups from bailing out people charged with violent crimes. And he said he would appoint judges who would impose the longest sentences allowed.
“Do you feel safer today than you did four years ago?” Jensen asked at a news conference. “When I ask people across Minnesota — whether it’s in greater Minnesota or in the urban areas — ‘Do you feel safer than you did four years ago?’ they’re saying no.”
Jensen, a family practice physician and former state senator, was joined outside the Capitol by his running mate, former Minnesota Viking Matt Birk.
Jensen criticized incumbent Democratic Gov. Tim Walz for his response to the sometimes violent unrest that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, which included the burning of a police station. Jensen said Walz froze and let the situation get out of control. He said he would be quicker to deploy the National Guard to prevent trouble. He also said he would use state troopers to supplement local police in high-crime areas.
The Walz administration has already stepped up the role of the State Patrol. It announced plans last month to use troopers to supplement the Minneapolis Police Department, which has lost around 300 officers since the unrest, with many claiming post-traumatic stress disorder.
Minneapolis and St. Paul have seen a surge in violent crime that sometimes spills into the suburbs. Minneapolis recorded 97 homicides last year, the most since 1995, while St. Paul had 38, breaking the city’s record of 34 set in 1992. Minneapolis also reported more than 640 attempted or successful carjackings in 2021, while St. Paul saw about 100. The cities formerly didn’t feel the need to keep specific carjacking statistics.
Jensen also called for more job, literacy and skills training for state prisoners to help them find work when they’re released and thus reduce recidivism. And he called for more emphasis on restorative justice by using offenders to clean up graffiti and vandalism. He would also create a unit within the state Department of Public Safety to protect children from sexual exploitation.
Democrats were quick to criticize Jensen’s plan, pointing out that it contains no new money to bolster local police departments, while Walz and other Democrats have called for $450 million in new public safety spending as part of a stalled bipartisan budget framework that Jensen opposes. They also criticized Jensen for opposing gun safety measures such as background checks.
The Legislature adjourned last month with lawmakers still divided on how to use the $7 billion that’s left of what was a $9.25 billion surplus. Talks among Walz and the Senate Republican and House Democratic majorities have yet to nail down enough details for the governor to call a special session.
“From opposing universal background checks to the budget deal on public safety, Scott Jensen has shown that he’s unserious about stopping crime and gun violence,” Ken Martin, the state democratic Party chairman, said in a statement.
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