Increase in felonies is a ‘blip in the radar’

by Rachel Minske
Contributing Writer
Sherburne County Attorney Kathleen Heaney told the Elk River City Council this week that in 2016, there was a 10 percent increase in adult felonies, which she called a “blip in the radar.”
Heaney’s office – which annually presents a joint presentation to the council alongside the city prosecutor’s office – is largely responsible for prosecuting felonies and overseeing juvenile-related cases.
Heaney said 2016 marked a year of firsts for Elk River; the city saw its first DWI case involving a 15-year-old and its first marijuana wax case.
In 2016, there were 529 total felony cases opened, according to information provided to the city, about a 10 percent increase from 2015 when there were 478 felony cases. There were 254 gross misdemeanor cases in 2016, compared to 196 the year before. Further, in 2016, there were 584 adult probation violations, compared to 549 in 2015.
Heaney said her office also saw an increase of Children in Need of Protection Services cases last year.
In 2016, there were 89 CHIPS cases, according to information Heaney provided to the city. That number is up from the 67 cases in 2015 and the 37 cases in 2014.

City saw case drop
Unlike Heaney’s office, Elk River city prosecutor Scott Baumgartner told the City Council his office noticed positive trends in 2016.
“We saw a decline in all of the cases that we track for the city,” Baumgartner said.
According to information Baumgartner provided to the council, there were 45 misdemeanor DUI offenses in 2016, a decrease from the 68 offenses reported in both 2015 and 2014. Of those 45 cases from last year, 54 percent of offenders were convicted, 31 percent pleaded to a lesser charge and 2 percent were dismissed.
Gross misdemeanor DUIs were also down in 2016 with 55 total offenses reported. There were 68 offenses in 2015 and 67 in 2014. Of the offenses from last year, 51 percent were convicted, 13 percent pleaded for a lesser charge and 36 percent are pending, according to data Baumgartner supplied to the city.
Mayor John Dietz asked Baumgartner if he believed more traffic-related emphasis from the Police Department has caused DUI numbers to drop.
Baumgartner replied that it’s not the city’s goal to catch those driving while intoxicated, but to instead deter them. Addressing DUIs through a variety of educational formats, such as the media, have helped bring the numbers down, the city prosecutor said.
“People are starting to recognize the addiction of alcohol,” he said.
Misdemeanor domestic assaults fell to 22 offenses in 2016. There were 31 misdemeanor domestic assaults reported in 2015 and 38 the year before. Forty-one percent of misdemeanor domestic assault offenses were convicted in 2016, 18 percent pleaded to a lesser charge and 18 percent are pending. Nine percent of those cases were dismissed.
Gross misdemeanor domestic assaults also dropped in 2016; five offenses were reported in 2016 compared to eight in 2015 and 12 the year before. Forty percent of gross misdemeanor offenses were dismissed last year and 60 percent are still pending.
The number of theft offenses remained the same the last two years; there were 27 reported theft offenses in both 2015 and 2016. Before that, there were 38 theft offenses in 2014 and 42 in 2013. Of the theft offenses from 2016, 67 percent of offenders were convicted and 18 percent were dismissed per a plea agreement. Three percent of the offenses were dismissed.
Both Heaney and Baumgartner praised Elk River’s law enforcement during their presentation to City Council.
“You know you have a good police department when a defendant comes in and compliments the officer that pulled them over and stopped them,” Baumgartner said.