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How Many Convicted Carjackers In The Twin Cities Face Prison Time?

Originally published April 4

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - As carjackings plague the Twin Cities, many have asked: What happens after a suspect is caught?

WCCO-TV has been tracking hundreds of cases to find out. Fewer than 15% of carjackings led to arrests in Minneapolis last year. In St. Paul, that number was about 25%. But then what happens?

Julie Wicklund is acutely aware of the crime and carjacking crisis across the Twin Cities. The Minneapolis mom and her daughter were the victims of an armed home invasion last year.

"An individual came into our house with a gun during the middle of the day," Wicklund said.

Police told her they believe the same juveniles may be responsible for another attack and the carjacking of her neighbor.

"They yanked open the car door, one of them put a gun up in front of my head" Melanie McCall said. "At every step of the way it was, 'Hurry up or I'm going to kill you. Do this now or I will kill you.'"

The survivors are invested in what happens after a suspect is caught. They worry the system is failing victims.

"Whatever it is we're doing obviously isn't working," McCall said.

"Persons who commit a violent crime need to be held accountable," Wicklund said.

They were interested in data obtained by WCCO. Last year, the Hennepin County Attorney charged 90 carjacking cases in Minneapolis. About two-thirds of those crimes involved juveniles.

Five kids over 16 were certified as adults for crimes ranging from gun possession to robbery. Their sentences ranged from four to nearly eight years in prison. One is still pending. Twelve outcomes for minors varied between supervised and unsupervised probation to stayed sentences. A handful of other cases are pending or were dismissed.

But data is protected for the majority of the cases because the suspect is under 16. So in Minneapolis, we only know of four underage carjacking suspects who have faced prison time. The data is private in most of the other cases because the suspects are under 16.

The county attorney's office told WCCO in part: "the goal is to keep all youth in their homes in the community, but public safety requires detention or out of home placement for some youth."

Ramsey County provided details about eight juvenile cases in St. Paul. Three pleaded guilty and await sentencing. Another received supervised probation for six months in a car theft plea deal. Of two who faced robbery charges, one was already imprisoned for another crime. The other jailed for up to nine months. Another juvenile's charges were dismissed as part of a plea in a separate case. The final case is pending.

Still the punishments and outcomes are difficult to digest for those who feared for their lives. The survivors are glad some are being held accountable.

"For juveniles to be sent back home does not seem to make much sense to me. They are not properly being held to account," McCall said.

"Because if they don't, they will see no reason not to continue those behaviors," Wicklund said.

WCCO also looked at adult cases. Data obtained by WCCO showed about one-third of the carjackings cases in Minneapolis charged by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office involved adults.

Seven of those suspects were convicted on charges ranging from robbery to fleeing police. Their sentences stretched from 30 days in jail to five years in prison. A judge sent one carjacker to a diversion program. Four others had their charges dismissed for lack of evidence or as part of plea deals. The remaining cases are still going through court.

The adult cases in St. Paul involved charges like assault and car theft. Five were convicted and sent to prison for 30 days to three and a half years. One case was dismissed because the carjacker was punished in another crime. Eight cases are still working their way through the courts.

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