Stops and citations spike, arrests drop under State Patrol’s 2023 special ops

Newly released data about the special enforcement operations by the Minnesota State Patrol shows many more drivers were stopped and cited this year but fewer were arrested than last year.

The numbers focus specifically on results from the State Patrol’s street racing, Highway Enforcement for Aggressive Traffic (HEAT) patrols and other high visibility efforts focused on stopping dangerous driving behaviors like speeding, distracted and impaired driving, and lack of seat belt use.

“We do the work that we do because we’re passionate about keeping our roads safe and saving lives,” Col. Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, said of the special enforcement operations. “The extra enforcement is working. The State Patrol has responded to 25 percent fewer deadly crashes than at this time last year. It shows our commitment to our mission is making a difference.”

The operations ran throughout the spring, summer and fall, marking the third consecutive year of street racing enforcement and the second straight year of HEAT patrols, in addition to more typical high-intensity patrols over busy travel weekends. Several other law enforcement agencies partner with the State Patrol to support the initiatives.

The data seems to show a bit of a shift in the enforcement efforts this year from last, particularly in the HEAT patrols.

Stops and citations spiked in 2023 under the HEAT patrols, jumping from 22,946 stops to 46,806 and 9,590 citations to 20,907 this year, State Patrol data shows. More than 1,300 people were also cited for street racing this year, up from 985 last year, although street racing stops actually decreased by around 24%, and high-intensity stops and citations dropped by around 16% and 15%, respectively.

Part of the decrease in street racing stops may indicate that efforts are working. The State Patrol first started cracking down on street racing in 2021, noting that “street takeover events” then would have upwards of 250 vehicles, with several blocking intersections. Now, street racing events typically draw fewer than 20 vehicles, the agency says.

Meanwhile, the HEAT patrols use troopers on the group plus air support to find and stop dangerous drivers.

However, the massive spike in HEAT patrol stops led to only a marginal increase in arrests, up from 288 in 2022 to 302 this year, according to the data. The drop in street racing and high-intensity patrol stops, on the other hand, led to fewer arrests this year, dropping by 69% and 49% respectively. DWI arrests under the special operations also dropped 21% from last year, with the only increase under HEAT patrols (152 vs. 150).

In deciding to extend HEAT patrols last year, Langer said his agency heard Minnesotans say they wanted to see an increased focus on stopping aggressive drivers. “Through these patrols around the state, our troopers can do just that,” he said.

When asked if the data indicates a continued need for special enforcement operations or whether some efforts could be dialed back, Langer told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, “We will assess, like we always do, and adjust accordingly for next year.”