ST. PAUL — Incidents of violent crimes including murder decreased last year as compared to 2017, but rape offenses reached their highest level in almost a quarter-century, according to a state crime report.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on Monday, July 8, released its Uniform Crime Report for 2018. The report provides the most comprehensive look at crime in Minnesota.

Incidents of violent crime were down 6.7% in 2018 as compared to the year prior, with murder, aggravated assaults and robberies down from 2017 levels, the report showed. And rape and involuntary sex trafficking reports increased in 2018.

Property crime offenses also decreased in 2018, with burglary, larceny and arson offenses shrinking compared to rates in 2017. Motor vehicle theft, by contrast, increased for the third year in a row.

"There are certainly some very positive findings," Andy Skoogman, executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police said, pointing to the decreased rates of violent crimes and so-called "quality of life" crimes. "Those are the types of crimes that really impact neighborhood or communities. They can make people want to move out and move in."

Skoogman said it wasn't immediately clear what fueled the increase in rape offenses, but he said it could be associated with more sexual survivors becoming aware of the reporting process and coming forward.

"It is certainly an issue that is on the forefront of everyone’s mind in law enforcement," Skoogman said, referencing recent reports that highlighted problems in the way Minnesota's criminal justice system deals with rape victims. State lawmakers closed several of the loopholes during the 2019 legislative session.

National crime statistics from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report for the first half of 2018 showed a lower decrease in violent crime offenses, down 4.3% compared to the six-month timeframe in 2017. National property crime offenses in that timeframe decreased 7.2%, a smaller downward shift than the 8.9% decrease reported in Minnesota between 2017 and 2018.

A letter from Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington to Gov. Tim Walz outlining the state crime report also noted that of the 104 Minnesotans murdered last year, 59 were killed with a handgun. And 25 were killed by a family member, according to the report.

And bias-motivated crimes were reported at lower levels last year. There were 127 bias-related crimes reported in 2018, down from 147 in 2017.

Key findings from the report

• Overall incidents of violent crime decreased in 2018 as compared to in 2017. There were 12,571 violent crimes reported in 2018 as compared to 13,476 reported the year prior, a 6.7 % decrease in violent crime in the state. Violent crimes include murders, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults and human trafficking.

• Incidents of murder decreased by 8.8% from 2017. One hundred and four incidents of murder were reported in 2018 as compared to 114 in 2017.

• There were 2,656 reports of rape in 2018 as compared to 2,429 in 2017, a 9.3% increase. The 2018 figure also represents the highest number of reported rapes in 24 years, according to the report.

• Reported robberies decreased by 19.3% in 2018 as compared to the year prior, a drop of 704 reported robberies.

• Aggravated assaults decreased by 6% over that timeframe, from 7,115 in 2017 to 6,687 in 2018.

• Human trafficking reports involving commercial sex acts increased by 5.8% from 173 cases in 2017 to 183 reports in 2018.

• Property crimes, which made up nearly 90% of the offenses reported in 2018, were down 8.9% compared to the year prior. Burglaries, larcenies, motor vehicle thefts, and arsons make up that category. Each offense was reported at lower levels in 2018 than 2017 with the exception of motor vehicle thefts, which increased by more than 1%.

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