Humphrey discusses anti-crime initiatives

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 10/8/96.

Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III was in Paynesville Wednesday afternoon talking about the anti-crime initiatives to local residents at the Paynesville Area Senior Center. Humphrey talked about crime prevention, focused on future enforcement and additional support for the DARE program.

I want to get back to the future where Minnesota is truly Minnesota nice, Humphrey said. There are criminals all across the country but they are here in Minnesota as well. We are encouraging community members to be involved and show their concern for their community. The key focus is concern. I would like to see a statewide gang strike task force organized. It would consist of 30 police officers from across the state, 10 Bureau of Criminal Apprehension officers plus the tools and communication resources to break the backs of gangs, Humphrey stressed. We need to strengthen the police on the streets. This year there are 450 additional officers in the state helping patrol the streets and highways, he added.

Humphrey also stressed the need to cut down on criminals with guns on the streets. Any criminal caught with a gun in hand, would receive a mandatory three-year sentence, he said. Also, we need to get the violent criminals off the street. A key element is to get in front of the problem.

Humphrey felt is was tragic children had to wait for their school bus in many areas where across the street are prostitutes and drug dealers. This shouldnt be a way of life, he said. We have to make sure programs work so our children are safe. Humphrey said he would like to see more action in the school district with the liaison program. The vast majority of our students are doing the right thing in school and they can be a powerful force against crime.

Kevin Burr, Cold Spring, and his brother Jerry Burr, Paynesville, addressed the need to enforce the laws that are already on the books. When a tragedy occurs, why is it that the family of the victims has to fight the fight. The laws are supposed to protect us, not makes matters worse, Kevin said. The officers carry out their duties, then the courts set the criminals free, making a fool of the officers. There is no follow-through, no accountability. I choose not to use or buy drugs. Someone else does and has an accident and then walks away from it. We need tremendous help from the legislature and the attorney generals office to protect the victims, Kevin stressed. All too often, the courts hands are tied up in procedure. Things have got to be turned around. Drug cases have to move through the courts faster. We have got to have the consequences faster instead of waiting six months or longer for anything to happen. The laws need to be fair for all concerned.

Jerry Burr said it is very frustrating to have buried your mother and aunt and uncle over a year ago and nothing has happened. We (the family) have been subpoenaed and cant be in the courtroom when the case is heard next week. I dont feel this is right. We were brought up to obey the law but life isnt that way anymore, he added.

Kevin Burr said the family cant start the healing process because the problem is constantly there, still affecting all their lives. Humphrey said it is the courage of families like the Burrs who stand up and fight which will make a difference in the system. It takes time!

Steve Whitcomb, Paynesville, said You have talked about increased dollars to help police departments, but Kevin has made a strong point, how do we explain to our kids what has happened. Paynesville has the DARE program and Families First. How can we take one more step to turn around and give our kids faith that the laws will help them. Police officers are bogged down with needless paper work when they should be on the streets.

We need to take a look at the procedures. When people in Minnesota go to prison, they stay longer than other states, Humphrey said, But that doesnt take care of the problem. It is the willingness of people to speak up and take a stand saying they wont tolerate crime. Smaller crimes accumulate and become totally destructive in the long run. Everybody needs to pull together and support to law enforcement. We need to give criminals a clear message that their lack of respect for the law wont be tolerated.

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