MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Carjackings are a major problem in the Twin Cities, with hundreds of victims left to deal with the trauma. What's happening to solve the crimes? And who's committing them?
WCCO's Jennifer Mayerle spent weeks asking those questions. She gives us the most comprehensive look at the problem that's plaguing our community.
We've repeatedly heard how a split second can change a life.
"I bet 14 or 16 years old, came up, had guns, like right into, you know, my stomach, and all I could look at was the gun," Craig Boettcher said.
He was one of the 755 victims attacked in the Twin Cities last year. We know stories like his well.
"They said 'Give us your keys or we'll kill you,'" Boettcher said.
But what about the attackers. Are they running free? Facing charges? You've been asking us, so we got to work tracking down records to offer the most complete investigative look yet.
Minneapolis Police report 655 carjackings last year alone. They resulted in 91 arrests. At least one 18 year old was arrested three times. Our investigation found he was charged twice.
According to MPD, at least 14 minors were arrested two or more times, ranging in age from 12 to 16. There were 112 cases in Minneapolis, or 17%, that were sent to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office for prosecution.
Don't bother doing the math, the numbers won't add up. That's because police say some suspects were charged with more than one crime.
Seventy-one cases involved minors, while 41 involved adults. Prosecutors charged 80% of the Minneapolis cases. Some are still pending. That accounts for 13.5% of all carjacking cases in Minneapolis in 2021.
Across the river, 101 drivers were carjacked in St. Paul. There were 27 arrests, and four of those were re-arrests of a person for the same crime.
During one police interview, a suspect said it was only a misdemeanor. Police clarified it's a felony. The suspect admitted, "Every time I get caught in a stolen [car] (they) drop it down to a misdemeanor."
St. Paul Police Assistant Chief Robert Thomasser says it's part of the problem.
"There isn't a perception to not do this crime because people aren't worried about the consequences when they do," Thomasser said.
Thirty carjacking cases in St. Paul went to the Ramsey County Attorney's Office for a charging decision. Seventeen were minors, 13 were adults.
Prosecutors charged 56% of the cases in St. Paul. That's about 17% of all carjacking cases in the capitol city.
Why are so few in both cities being charged? Police and prosecutors agree it's a hard crime to gather enough evidence.
"These things happen very quickly. Sometimes the people who are committing these crimes are wearing masks. Sometimes they just don't have the information that we need that can lead to an arrest or a charge," Thomasser said. "Just because we don't have someone charged with a case doesn't always mean we don't know who did it."
Boettcher says his carjacking changed his outlook.
"Now I have to look at everybody as somebody who could threaten or kill me, instead of helping people," Boettcher said.
He hopes there's a solution before more innocent people are hurt.
What this data doesn't show is how many of those charged were convicted, and their sentence. We're working on getting that information, and will share it with you.
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