Hennepin County attorney pushes public-private partnership to fight violent crime

A week after local mayors and police chiefs called on the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to be more aggressive in prosecuting violent criminals, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman is proposing a new plan to battle crime.

Freeman said he’s asked local city leaders, law enforcement, business and faith leaders to join a public-private partnership called Minnesota Hope, Education and Law and Safety (MN HEALS 2.0).

“The crime rates experienced in our communities in 2021 have raised important questions and concerns about approaches to prevention, law enforcement and prosecutions,” Freeman said in a statement. “Across Hennepin County, we have 37 municipalities as well as Minnesota’s largest urban area — Minneapolis. That means that shared commitments, coordinated approaches and effective partnerships are essential. It is also important that we take stock of what is working, what needs to be re-evaluated, what we can learn from our own past successes and failures and to make sure this analysis is based on facts.”

Freeman’s office noted MN HEALS was an effort to reduce violent crimes back in 1997 and helped reduce violent crime by 62% over a decade. Freeman said times are different now but “there are real lessons to be taken from that earlier success.”

County mayors and law enforcement leaders met with Freeman on Monday to discuss violent crime, his office said.

Last week, county mayors and law enforcement leaders expressed frustration with Freeman and his office, saying criminals aren’t being held accountable. Freeman responded by saying his office was doing all it can.

According to Freeman’s office, participants in the new initiative include New Baptist Church Rev. Jerry McAfee; Bishop Harding Smith; Charlie Weaver, with the Minnesota Business Partnership; Steve Cramer, of the Minneapolis Downtown Council; Orono Police Chief Correy Farniok, who’s also president of the Hennepin County Chiefs of Police; retired Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold; Edina Mayor Jim Hovland; Hennepin County Commissioner Debbie Goettel; Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Lunde; Assistant Hennepin County Administrator Chela Guzman-Wiegert; and Minneapolis City councilmembers Linea Palmisano and Lisa Goodman.