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Should RT Rybak Run His Gubernatorial Campaign as a Tough-on-Crime Democrat?

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Minneapolis October '09 Crime Rate Falls 10 Percent from a Year Ago Despite 27 Percent Rise in Unemployment

The Minneapolis Police Department's newly-released Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data for October 2009 finds crime in Minnesota's largest city down 10.1 percent from one year ago, despite a 27 percent increase in unemployment during that span.

That news comes as Minneapolis' Mayor, R.T. Rybak recently joined a crowded DFL field last month when he officially filed paperwork creating the R.T. Rybak for Governor Committee. Rybak will formally kick off his gubernatorial campaign this Sunday afternoon at the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown, Minneapolis.

On Rybak's campaign website, the newly reelected 2-term mayor outlines his plan for five big policy issues: jobs and opportunity, budget and reform, education and the next generation, health care, and rural economy. (A placeholder for a transportation plan is listed as 'coming soon').

But one policy issue which has been a focus of Rybak's nearly eight years as mayor that is only lightly discussed on his 2010 campaign website is crime policy.

Curious, that is, because Rybak has presided over a significant drop in crime in Minneapolis during his mayoral tenure.

For example, the October 2009 city-wide total of UCR Part 1 offenses (homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson) is down 23 percent (2,112) from October 2001 (2,742), two months before Rybak took office. This decrease has occurred despite unemployment in Minneapolis being 67 percent higher in October 2009 (7.0 percent) than in October 2001 (4.2 percent).

The decline in crime during this period is not a fluke.

Looking at monthly crime rate totals in 2001 before Rybak took office versus the respective crime rates for these months in 2009 reveals double-digit decreases in crime for each cycle, despite an unemployment rate that has nearly doubled on average during this span.

Change in Minneapolis Crime Totals and Unemployment Rate by Month, 2001 vs. 2009 (January-October)

Period
2001
2009
Change
Unemployment
January
1,821
1,587
-12.9
+102.9
February
1,505
1,225
-18.6
+129.0
March
1,792
1,565
-12.7
+111.4
April
2,128
1,667
-21.7
+97.1
May
2,360
1,888
-20.0
+117.6
June
2,454
2,018
-17.8
+104.9
July
2,843
2,263
-20.4
+97.5
August
2,610
2,080
-20.3
+88.1
September
2,465
2,120
-14.0
+78.6
October
2,742
2,112
-23.0
+66.7
Total
22,720
18,525
-18.5
+97.9
Note: Crime totals include the number of Part I UCR crimes of homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Sources: Minneapolis Police Department Uniform Crime Reports and Department of Employment and Economic Development data compiled by Smart Politics.

Rybak's record on crime over the course of the past year is noteworthy as well: crime in Minneapolis has dropped by double-digits in each month in 2009 compared to the respective period 12-months prior despite an average increase in unemployment of 48.8 percent.

Change in Minneapolis Crime Totals and Unemployment Rate by Month, 2008 vs. 2009 (January-October)

Period
2008
2009
Change
Unemployment
January
1,802
1,587
-11.9
+60.5
February
1,418
1,225
-13.6
+77.5
March
1,740
1,565
-10.1
+72.1
April
2,039
1,667
-18.2
+72.5
May
2,301
1,888
-17.9
+57.4
June
2,545
2,018
-20.7
+58.5
July
2,807
2,263
-19.4
+36.2
August
2,507
2,080
-17.0
+29.5
September
2,458
2,120
-13.8
+25.0
October
2,350
2,110
-10.1
+27.3
Total
21,967
18,523
-15.3
+48.8
Note: Crime totals include the number of Part I UCR crimes of homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Sources: Minneapolis Police Department Uniform Crime Reports and Department of Employment and Economic Development data compiled by Smart Politics.

Rybak's accomplishments on crime are mentioned on his campaign website, but not in great detail. The only mention to crime policy on his website's "Issues" section is a one paragraph reference to the reduction of violent crime among Minneapolis' youth (tucked away under his "Education and the next generation" plan). Rybak also mentions the reduction of crime during his tenure as mayor on his "About R.T." page.

Taken together, Rybak seems to be incorporating his record on crime in his gubernatorial campaign for retroactive biographical purposes, but not as part of a prospective statewide law and order policy plan.

Of course, Rybak is not yet running a general election campaign.

Crime policy is not normally one of the top-tier issues on the DFL agenda - either for the party or the primary voting electorate, and that might explain why Rybak is shrewdly focusing on tried-and-true DFL issues such as health care and education at this time.

However, should Rybak win the DFL nomination and/or primary, do not be surprised if crime policy, and a more detailed touting of his record on law and order issues as mayor of Minnesota's largest city, plays a much greater role in his campaign.

But, for the moment, the mayor is apparently content to keep this crime policy card half way up his sleeve.

Should he end up on the general election ballot in 2010, Rybak would benefit greatly by playing the card at that time to showcase a broad-based gubernatorial campaign that could better appeal to moderates and some conservatives in order to build a winning coalition of voters.

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2 Comments


  • Yeah, I keep seeing comments like this around the political blogs. Crime dropped nationwide, even in cities with poor mayoral governance. Sorry dude, not really attributable to Rybak.

  • Yeah, I know what you mean. Its kinda like when Governor Pawlenty says he balances the state budget (cash management). Yet we still face a 1.2 billion dollar deficit. Poor governance does come to mind.....

    I guess mayor's and governor's take credit and responsibility for what they can or they simply run from their record.

  • Leave a comment


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