Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Soudan the car theft capital of Minnesota? Not quite

Jodi Summit
Posted 9/21/16

SOUDAN—Don’t believe everything you read on social media. That piece of advice was reinforced yet again when the story “Here are the 10 Most Dangerous Places in Minnesota After Dark” started …

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Soudan the car theft capital of Minnesota? Not quite

Posted

SOUDAN—Don’t believe everything you read on social media. That piece of advice was reinforced yet again when the story “Here are the 10 Most Dangerous Places in Minnesota After Dark” started making its rounds on Facebook earlier this week.

The headline was designed to grab attention, or “clicks” as they’re known to digital media sources, like the site “onlyinyourstate.com,” which published the article.

Bylined by someone named Betsy Rathburn, the story took 2015 Minnesota Unified Crime Report data and determined the ten most dangerous places in Minnesota, statistically speaking.

The most surprising finding, at least to residents of the North Country, was the inclusion of quiet and peaceful Breitung Township, which the story claimed has the most car thefts per capita of any community in the state.

Rathburn writes…

“This one’s a bit of a shock - where in the world is Breitung Township? It’s a tiny town way up north along Hwy. 1 in St. Louis County with the dubious honor of most car thefts by population in Minnesota. The town only has 610 people, but with the high number of car thefts reported, it has an alarming auto theft rate of 820 per 100,000. If you find yourself up there at night, make sure you lock your doors.”

The statewide rate for car thefts in 2015 was 142 per 100,000, so a rate of 820 would be eye-raising, if true.

While Breitung Police Chief Jesse Anderson acknowledged that Tower and Soudan did receive a total of five reports of car thefts last year, reports which he duly entered into the state’s crime database, only one turned out to be a real theft. While one other case was initially prosecuted the owner of the car later revealed having given permission for the supposed thief to use the car, so the charges were dropped. In the other cases, either friends or family had simply borrowed a vehicle without telling the owners. In other words, typical small town stuff.

So in reality, the Breitung Police had one car theft in 2015, give the township a rate lower than the statewide average.

The Minnesota Unified Crime Report did have some other interesting information. The Breitung Police, one of the smallest departments in St. Louis County, had a clearance rate of 70 percent, markedly higher than Ely (at 45 percent) and Babbitt (at 55 percent). The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department showed it had cleared 33 percent of its cases.

And yes, that one car theft, it was a case the department cleared.

But crime stats also did show that the crime rate in Tower-Soudan is higher than would be expected; when adjusted to add in Tower’s population, the combined crime rate is 7,387 per 100,000.

Most of these crimes, Anderson explained, are what are called “type II” crimes, lesser offenses, such as DUIs (32), drug-related offenses (8), disorderly conduct (11), and fraud (5). As far as what are considered violent crimes, the Breitung Police had one aggravated assault. one burglary, one larceny, and the aforementioned five supposed car thefts.

The online article can be found at http://www.onlyinyour state.com/minnesota/dangerous-places-mn/, and includes a link to the Minnesota Crime Report.

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