Violent crime is down in Sioux Falls and more out-of-staters are applying to become police officers in the city, according to a public safety update held by Mayor Paul TenHaken and Chief Jon Thum on Monday.
The public safety update was held at City Hall before the daily police briefing. Traditionally the city and police department hold a public safety update with the annual crime data in late February or early March, but this year the update was given with one month left in the year and crime stats through October.
Both TenHaken and Thum said public safety updates could be done more than once a year moving forward.
"The theme I'd like to reinforce is that violent crime is down in Sioux Falls," TenHaken said.
Violent Crime trending down
Homicides are trending down compared to a record 2021. The Sioux Falls Police Department has reported six homicides so far in 2021 compared to 11 in the same timeframe in 2020.
The year of 2020 ended up being a record year for homicides in the city with 13.
Aggravated assaults, simple assaults and robberies in 2021 are also trending downwards, Thum said. Burglaries, however, have continued rising since 2019 in data through October.
Drug seized and overdoses rising
Drug overdose deaths are higher in 2021 than they've been in the last four years, according to 2021 crime data. Fentanyl seized is at an all-time high along with meth nearing the record amount seized in 2019.
There have been 26 overdose deaths in Sioux Falls as of October 2021. That number is higher than the previous three years that had no more than 22 deaths in a single year, according to 2021 crime data.
There have been more than 2,000 grams of fentanyl seized in Sioux Falls in 2021. The number represents the largest amount of the drug seized in Sioux Falls through October in any year since 2015. In 2018, 1,209 grams of fentanyl were seized in Sioux Falls.
Meanwhile, the 125 pounds of meth seized in the state through October is higher than just one other year in the past six years.
Thum took time during the presentation to address teenagers and young adults about the importance of thinking about their loved ones when making the choice to use illegal drugs. He said many of the overdoses involve young people.
"Think and visualize maybe your parents finding out you've overdosed and passed away because for officers, EMS and fire this is a reality," Thum said.
Out-of-state police applicants rising
The biggest talking point throughout the presentation was the rise in police applicants in Sioux Falls. Out-of-state applicants have been on the rise in the last three years.
TenHaken said many of the applicants are from large metros that bring years of policing experience to Sioux Falls. Of the new officers hired in Sioux Falls in 2019 only 19% were certified. In 2021, 40% of the new hires were certified.
"We're getting good officers with three, five, 10-years experience," TenHaken said.
The lack of diversity among Sioux Falls Police was also briefly discussed.
The department had only one Black officer, and was 91% white, according to city statistics from 2020. Thum's predecessor Matt Burns said he was "not satisfied" with the department's diversity when leaving his post in the summer and said Thum wouldn't be either.
Thum said the search for diverse police applicants begins with getting kids interested in pursuing law enforcement as a career.
Sioux Falls Police currently have 270 sworn officers with 19 officers in training, according to data from the 2021 public safety update.
Stolen vehicle reports nearly double in 2-year span
Most crimes discussed during the update were either averaging normal numbers or decreasing. That was not the case with stolen vehicle reports.
From 2019 to 2021 through October, the amount of stolen vehicles in Sioux Falls has almost doubled. In 2019, 599 vehicles were stolen through October compared to 1,096 in 2021, according to 2021 crime data.
"Help us put these numbers down because this is a number that is directly under control of the residents that live here," Thum said. "A lot of times these stolen vehicles become used in other crimes."
Thum said a good reminder for residents is to check their vehicles around 10 p.m. and make sure the keys aren't inside and are securely put away.
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This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: 2021 crime stats in Sioux Falls show decline in violent crimes