Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said on Wednesday that in the year since it has launched, the office’s youth auto theft intervention initiative has helped lead to a drop in car thefts by nearly a third so far in 2024.

During a news conference, Moriarty discussed the influence of the program, which launched in June of 2023, and showcased the results thus far, including positive data trends from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

“This initiative shows that when prosecutors, law enforcement and social workers work together to intervene early, and support young people and their families, we can prevent crime from occurring,” she said, adding that law enforcement have asked her office to expand the program into addressing other crimes.

Minneapolis had a record-high number of car thefts in 2023. It has seen a 30% decrease in auto theft reports in 2024 compared with the same period last year, however the city is still at a 140% increase in car theft reports this year when compared with 2019. Moriarty acknowledged that there is more work to be done.

“When a young person is involved in that behavior, it can quickly escalate, so yeah, we have continued work to do,” she said.

The program aims to reduce youth auto thefts through a dual-pronged approach. Moriarty’s office partners with law enforcement agencies, truancy teams and county Child Protection Services and is designed to provide resources to high-risk young people (and their families) before they end up in the justice system.

Police across the county refer juveniles to the program who have been exhibiting “risky auto theft behavior” but have not been charged with a crime. If they qualify, the county will offer resources to the youth and their families. The participants can include those who have been charged in the past or have not been charged. Anyone who has an active criminal case or is on probation can not be referred, and the program does not accept anyone 18 or older.

Since the initiative began, 81% of the participants who were referred to the voluntary services had no new charges as of May 15, Moriarty said.

Services offered include mental health services, transportation, basic needs like food, clothing and shelter, and more, Moriarty said. The vast majority are accepting the services from a social worker, according to the attorney’s office. The second part of the program aims to expedite the amount of time it takes to reach a charging decision for a juvenile.

Brian Peters is executive director of the Minnesota Police & Peace Officers Association, the state’s largest organization representing public safety professionals, which has publicly been at odds with Moriarty. Peters said he is skeptical of the program’s success. He has been publicly critical of Moriarty over the handling of the murder charge she brought against State Trooper Ryan Londregan in the fatal shooting of motorist Ricky Cobb II which she then dismissed, earlier this month.

“We applaud any work that is done to effectively address public safety,” Peters said. “We are however cautioned when the data we have is being interpreted by a leader who has a strong bias against law enforcement.”

Minneapolis City Council President Elliott Payne joined Moriarty at the news conference and backed her, saying the numbers speak for themselves.

“We have clear results about what it means to do early intervention and we have results that are showing a level of efficacy that goes far and beyond our ability to respond to this with just police,” he said.

Star Tribune staff writer Jeff Hargarten contributed to this story.

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