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VPU: Crime, Costs Increasing in Minnehaha County

With a growing county comes a growing crime problem. Minnehaha County Commissioners from both parties are trying to deal with an increasing crime rate and budget needs that outstrip resources.

Monday on Viewpoint University Democratic County Commissioner Jeff Barth and Republican Commissioner Dick Kelly were in agreement as to the causes of the increase in crime and the negative impact it is having on the county and its taxpayers.

Barth says 2012 saw a 28.5 percent increase in felonies alone, with both rapes and aggravated assaults up substantially. Barth wonders what’s going on with the local society.

“Ah, it seems to me that there’s something changing in our culture here in this town,” Barth said. “You know, we didn’t used to have people getting robbed on the street, we didn’t have break-ins in people’s homes. And if there were any, citizens would cooperate with the police.”

Both Barth and Kelly say drug and alcohol abuse is a cause of over 50 percent of crimes committed in the county. They also note that the Minnehaha County jail—like most American jails and prisons—are full of people who need mental health treatment.

And all this doesn’t come cheap.

“The states attorneys office the public defenders office, they’re both swamped,” Kelly said. “That’s what’s costing the county a lot of money and it’s going to cost the taxpayers, obviously.”

Kelly would like to see a community summit where not just prosecutors, public defenders and law enforcement discuss crime, but where all county citizens can get involved and help find some solutions.

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