In response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) has launched an innovative crime database as part of a project to enhance transparency and accountability in law enforcement across the state.
BCA Superintendent Drew Evans explained the significance of the project in light of recent developments. “We’re trying to put the data in people’s fingertips more quickly than we ever had before,” he said.
According to Evans, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in violent crimes across the state, creating a need for a proactive approach to increasing law enforcement transparency and community trust.
One crucial aspect of the initiative is the Track-Kit evidence-tracking tool, which was developed to comply with a 2020 Minnesota statute that mandates sexual assault survivors have access to information about their sexual assault kits. Survivors can now track the progress of their kits and how they are handled as they undergo processing.
“It’s a way of bringing transparency to the process, but also building accountability so we can follow up and ensure that that kit is treated exactly how that victim survivor wanted it to be,” Evans explained.
Another key aspect of this project is the Minnesota Crime Data Explorer, a publicly accessible platform that offers comprehensive crime incident data from local law enforcement agencies. The platform supplements the state’s annual Uniform Crime Report, providing users with the ability to search, filter and analyze crime data, making it more accessible and understandable to the general public.
“In 2021, a federal law enforcement data collection system called the Summary Reporting System was replaced with the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which includes a more detailed accounting of the crimes involved in each incident,” Evans said, noting that this transition will allow Minnesotans to better understand crime trends and patterns in their communities.
Additionally, the Minnesota Crime Data Explorer goes a step further than the NIBRS in that it is accessible to Spanish, Somali and Hmong speakers, reflecting the state’s diverse linguistic and ethnic makeup.
The project also addresses concerns surrounding no-knock warrants, requiring all law enforcement agencies to report details about their use, including the number requested, court-issued, executed and any injuries or fatalities resulting from these operations. An online reporting system called No-Knock Warrant Reporting will allow residents to compare data across communities.
In addition to these innovations, the Minnesota BCA has recently launched a companion website that displays data on drug overdoses and deaths, with plans to incorporate data related to drug overdose–related crimes.
The state also intends to introduce new features and datasets, including mapping, ethnicity data as well as information on carjacking incidents.