State Patrol to increase presence in Minneapolis starting Monday night

An increased number of Minnesota State Patrol squad vehicles will be in the Minneapolis area starting Monday.

According to the State Patrol, the agency is increasing its presence for the next 10 nights as part of its Highway Enforcement for Aggressive Traffic (HEAT) effort.

The agency says the effort will run from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. each night, and in addition to more troopers on the highway, aviation support will also be increased.

During those six hours, troopers will be focusing on two things.

“Number one is the ridiculous amount of speeding going on on the freeways. And number two is to do our part with the unacceptable level of violent crime that has been seen in Minneapolis and other places,” said Col. Matt Langer with the Minnesota State Patrol

The extra aviation support will help make sure any drivers trying to flee officers during a traffic stop will be found and held accountable, according to the State Patrol.

“Between the helicopters and the airplanes, we’re gonna put those resources out to help both combat those who might choose to not pull over and flee, but also look for those aggressive drivers that are better seen by the air than on the ground,” said Col. Langer.

Officials say an increased trooper presence will especially be seen on Interstate 94 between the downtown area and I-694.

There are some concerns though – the group Communities United Against Police Brutality is condemning the mission for focusing on a stretch of I-94 that primarily runs through communities of color.

The group issued the following statement after the State Patrol announced its initiative:

“The Minnesota State Patrol today announced a 10-day program of targeting drivers on Interstate 94 between downtown Minneapolis and Interstate 694 for speeding and other infractions. They refer to this program as HEAT. That portion of I-94 runs through communities of color including North Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center. The ostensible purpose of this program is to “stop speeders and catch criminals” according to the State Patrol media release. However, the State Patrol has made it clear that they will stop people for other infractions such as expired license plates or having items hanging from the rearview mirror. There is no evidence that people are more prone to speeding or committing crimes on the targeted stretch of highway than on any other. Instead, this appears to be the kind of discriminatory targeting of people of color that led to the death of Daunte Wright. It is not lost on us that Brooklyn Center is one of the targeted communities. Communities United Against Police Brutality condemns all discriminatory law enforcement activities and specifically condemns the State Patrol’s HEAT program. We demand this poorly conceived plan be curtailed.”

Communities United Against Police Brutality

The HEAT effort comes as a follow-up from a meeting between Minnesota police chiefs and sheriffs associations, where a discussion was had in regards to how the State Patrol could help support local police departments as they work to fight crime.

As previously reported last month, the Hennepin County Chiefs of Police Association sent a letter to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and asked for more aggressive prosecution to fight violent crime. In addition, mayors across the county also wrote a letter to Freeman, expressing concern with how criminals are being prosecuted.

Freeman has previously said his office is already working with law enforcement and doing everything it can, and added that he understands the concerns from the chiefs and city leaders.

Last year, more than 650 people were shot and more than 2,000 robberies – including carjackings – happened in Minneapolis alone. That’s on top of a near-record number of homicides.

Both Republicans and Democrats have listed public safety as a priority for the 2022 legislative session.

RELATED: Record $7.7B surplus projected in latest Minnesota budget forecast

When Republicans announced their priorities for the session last month, Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller stated public safety was “priority number one,” and added, “we will put forward proposals to provide funding for more police officers because we know more cops result in less crime. We will put forward proposals to hold violent criminals accountable for their actions.”

House Republican Minority Leader Kurt Daudt has stated his party will focus on spending some surplus money on recruitment, training and retention of law enforcement officers in cities hit hardest by violent crime.

House DFL lawmakers announced a $100 million public safety plan in late January, saying $40 million would go to “innovation in community safety grants,” $22 million for “local community policing grants,” another $22 million for “crime investigation grants” and $10 million for “opiate epidemic response grants” to prevent opioid deaths.

RELATED: Local crime prevention group takes up residence in Brooklyn park, hopes to help community