At least two Minnesota counties do not require bail payments for individuals accused of committing certain “non-violent” crimes.
According to a WCCO report from December 2020, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Washington County Attorney Pete Orput dropped a bail requirement for 19 “low-level offenses.” It was a move that took effect at the beginning of 2021.
Such offenses include but are not limited to theft under $35,000, car theft, property damage, insurance fraud, counterfeiting currency, possession of shoplifting gear, possession of tools to commit burglaries and thefts, and wrongful obtainment of public assistance and unemployment benefits.
At the time, Freeman justified the move by arguing that holding suspected criminals on bail wastes taxpayer money and jail space.
“We don’t want to clog up our jails with persons who are not a threat, so that we have the space and the money to hold violent offenders,” he told WCCO. “And equally important […] we do not want to hold anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Orput added that bail disproportionately affects the poor.
“Why are we holding them in jail at about $50 to $60 a day?” he said. “I just think it’s grossly unfair, and it really does have an impact on a whole class of people in the poverty level of this country, and that’s significant.”
The report clarified that bail can still apply to low-level offenses if the suspect is deemed “high risk” to commit more crime and potentially endanger others in the community.
But increasing levels of crime in the Twin Cities and their suburbs call into question the county attorneys’ decision, as well as the criteria needed to be deemed “high risk.”
Along with violent crime, non-violent crime in the Twin Cities area has spiked since the beginning of 2020. Property crimes — including carjackings, car thefts, and burglaries — have become all too commonplace, even in typically safe suburbs.
Several Twin Cities suburbs are struggling to address a substantial increase in car thefts this year, as reported by Alpha News. The Cottage Grove and Deephaven police departments have even written statements asking their communities to be on the lookout for people pulling on car door handles.
Minnetonka Police Chief Scott Boerboom told the Sun Sailor that he believes “criminals are more emboldened” nowadays. He does not believe the COVID pandemic is the primary reason for high levels of property crime.
Of course, the city of Minnetonka is located in Hennepin County — one of the counties that no longer requires bail for many property crimes.
“Violent criminals must be held accountable by the judicial system for their criminal activity,” Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson said in a statement Monday night after his deputies arrested several carjacking suspects.