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State releases Crime Statistics for 2020

Murders up locally, statewide

Crime is up both locally and statewide, according to law enforcement.

State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem released a statewide crime report for 2020 earlier this week. The report was compiled from information provided by local law enforcement agencies across the state.

“As in every year, the crime statistics for 2020 show some encouraging news, along with one area of great concern,” said Stenehjem. “The long-term rate of some of the most serious offenses has ticked up slightly in some categories and down slightly in others, but the trend seems to be that the rate may be reaching a plateau. The one area that causes great concern is homicides. North Dakota experienced 32 homicides in 2020, which is by far the highest number since these reports were first compiled in 1978, and probably ever in the state’s history. That number eclipsed last year’s homicides of 26, which was a record then,said Stenehjem.

Capt. Dale Plessas, investigation commander with the Minot Police Department, also said homicide has been of great concern locally.

“In terms of Minot crime statistics, we have seen a definite increase in murders,” said Plessas. “Last year we saw a total of seven murders. In close examination of these crimes, we do not see any one factor to explain causation. While a single year increase does not make this a trend, this is certainly an area of concern for us. We have made arrests in all of these murder cases.”

Homicide continues to be a concern in 2021. The police department announced on Wednesday that it is investigating the death of a woman in a vehicle fire on June 3 in Minot as a murder. The victim has not been identified and no arrests have been announced in that case.

On the positive side at the statewide level, Stenehjem noted that drug arrests as well as driving under the influence arrests continued an encouraging long-term downward trend.

That hasn’t been the case in Minot. Plessas said drug overdoses continue to be of great concern in Minot.

“Another area of concern for us, that is not reflected in the state statistics, are the numbers of overdoses,” said Plessas. “We saw 84 overdoses and 19 suspected overdose deaths last year. That number is up from 28 overdoses and three suspected overdose deaths from the year prior. This year we have seen 36 overdoses and have had five suspected overdose deaths. We are without doubt that heroin and fentanyl are strong contributing factors in these high numbers.

“As a department, we have placed great emphasis on holding those who distribute these drugs, accountable. We have been working with our state and federal partners to hand down inditements in an effort to stem the flow of these drugs. We are also working with our partners in the community to get help to those who are in need. Every overdose that our agency responds to results in activation of an action plan that is geared at providing overdose victims resources to get help. As part of this action plan our officers take steps to ensure medical treatment is received and the overdose victim receives detoxification. North Central Human Services is contacted and respond to the medical facility to provide addiction resources.”

One of the murders reported last year was the fentanyl and methamphetamine overdose death of a 16-year-old girl in a Minot hotel room on Dec. 14, 2020. Mark Anthony Rodgers Jr., 32, was charged with Class AA felony murder and is accused of deliberately giving the girl a “hot shot,” a potentially lethal shot that can cause a drug overdose, to make the girl more amorous. According to testimony at a preliminary hearing, Rodgers had reportedly also had sex with the teenager, who was below the age of consent in North Dakota, though he has not been charged with having sex with her. Rodgers has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. The next hearing in his case is scheduled for July 21 before Judge Stacy Louser in district court in Minot.

Stenhejem’s office reported 10,815 crimes against persons in 2020 statewide, up 2.6 % from 2019. There were 32 murders in 2020, with four of the victims last year children, according to statewide statistics. Firearms were involved in the deaths of 15 murder victims.

According to the state attorney general, the category of negligent manslaughter now includes deaths due to drunk drivers, distracted drivers, and reckless drivers, which offenses were not previously included. There were ten fatalities reported in 2020. Six victims were killed by impaired drivers, and another two were killed by distracted drivers using handheld devices.

Aggravated assaults increased 10% in the state after experiencing a 13% decline in 2019. There were 1,371 reports of aggravated assault across the state in 2020 compared to 1,251 in 2019. The number of simple assaults reported also increased, from 6,062 in 2019 to 6,180 in 2020.

The state also reported 25,744 property crimes reported, up 7.9% from the 23,868 reported in 2019. A little more than one-third of the $38.2 million worth of stolen property was recovered by law enforcement.

There were 88 reports of arson in the state in 2020, a 6% increase from the 83 reported in 2019. Motor vehicle thefts increased by 14.5%, from 1,669 in 2019 to 1,911 in 2020. Theft of motor vehicle parts increased by 127.4%, from 164 in 2019 to 373 in 2020. Reports of Identity Theft increased by 173.6%, from 516 in 2019 to 1,412 in 2020. The attorney general’s office said much of the increase resulted from fraudulent claims for pandemic unemployment benefits, which the victims discovered only after their employer received notice that the victim had supposedly submitted a claim.

Crimes against society (such as drug violations, prostitution, animal cruelty) decreased by 3.3%, from 13,464 in 2019, to 13,020 in 2020, according to Stenehjem’s office. More than 77% of offenses were cleared by arrest or exceptional means.

Statewide, drug/narcotic violations decreased by 5.4% from 6,444 in 2019 to 6,095 in 2020.

According to Stenehjem’s office, Group B offenses include DUI, bad checks, disorderly conduct, trespassing, and other less serious offenses. In 2020, the total number of Group B arrests reported was 14,395, a decrease of 11.2% from the 16,202 arrests in 2019.

DUI arrests decreased by 13.5%, from 4,828 in 2019, to 4,175 in 2020.

DUI arrests have decreased by 41% since the legislature increased the penalties in 2013 and required repeat offenders to participate in the 24/7 Sobriety program.

The state’s crime rate of 6,478.3 per 100,000 population is up slightly from the 2019 crime rate of 6,281.8.

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