Community leaders, law enforcement agencies working to prevent carjackings in Twin Cities

Carjackings have been down in St. Paul so far in 2022, but reports have increased in Minneapolis. Community leaders say there is still “a long way to go.”

ST PAUL, Minnesota – As carjackings continue to ravage the Twin Cities metro area, Tyrone Terrill likens his work in the community to a bank account.

“As with your bank account, you can’t withdraw without making deposits,” Terrill said. “We have to give these young men a leap of faith.”

Terrill and his team of community navigators are playing a critical frontline role in preventing auto theft in Ramsey County, which recently launched a youth auto theft intervention project. As a respected leader and President of the African American Leadership Council, Terrill leads two Navigators who work directly with young people most likely to be committing these serious crimes, with the goal of guiding them down a healthier path.

Terrill said about 60 such individuals have been identified through Ramsey County so far. His team has begun meeting with at least 25 of them, helping them find jobs or even visiting some already incarcerated for crimes. Terrill’s team of three also work closely with families back home.

“We know a third of the families personally. We have developed a personal relationship with them over the years. They were really relieved, really acceptable and committed and wanted to work with us,” Terrill said. “We need to remove the stigma that we are part of the criminal justice system. We are not. We’re trying to keep you from delving deeper into the criminal justice system.”

Anecdotally, there are signs of progress.

RELATED: Ramsey County hopeful early intervention is key to reducing carjackings

In St. Paul, for example, a police department spokesman said carjackings are down about 40% so far this year, with 19 reported carjacking cases in 2022 compared to 32 at this point in 2021.

“We won’t take credit for a 40% drop, but we can recognize that the majority of people who commit car thefts are among our cases. And we’ve been in touch with them,” Terrill said. “We try to make them understand that this is a mistake. You’re not just stealing someone’s car, you’re hurting people too.”

Terrill acknowledges that “we still have a long way to go” and points to the need for early intervention with the youngest children in the community. Some of the youngest carjacking suspects are as young as 12, he said.

And figures in neighboring Minneapolis tell a different story, where police data shows a 41% increase in carjacking reports in the first three months of 2022. Police are reporting 127 carjackings so far this year, compared to 90 at this time last year.

In all, Hennepin County law enforcement has submitted 38 carjacking cases for review. More than half of these cases – 22 to be precise – involve adult offenders. Sixteen concern adolescents. That’s a reversal of recent trends, which have shown that juveniles are far more likely to be involved in carjacking cases, or at least those brought to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.

In Ramsey County, Terrill has found this as well, which is why he is so focused on reaching young people as early as possible. He even wants families to know that they can always call his team (612-468-3811) if they are worried a relative is going down the wrong path.

“We’re just trying to build relationships with these young men to stop carjackings. How can we get them to do anything else?” Terrill said. “They play Russian roulette with their lives.”

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