Created: 07/01/2014 10:45 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 News) -- Violent crime is on the rise in Minnesota and law enforcement officials are now battling a growing trend that could be behind it.
On Tuesday, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released their comprehensive crime report for 2013, and statewide it showed a slight increase in violent crime.
The murder rate in the state is up 21 percent from 2012, but that percentage only represents an increase of 19 cases, and that rate has fluctuated significantly over the last five years.
In Olmsted County, 124 aggravated assaults were reported last year, compared to 56 in Mower County and 40 in Freeborn County, with all three counties staying similar to the year before.
But burglaries were down in all three counties with 564 reported in Olmsted County, 207 in Mower County, and just 72 in Freeborn County.
Still, experts said those kinds of serious and violent crimes often come back to one main issue.
“I think the violent crime is definitely drug driven,” said Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi. “I think the methamphetamine obviously plays a role in that, but I also see that the heroin and prescription painkillers are definitely driving that as well."
Sheriff Amazi said drugs continue to be the biggest part of her department’s investigations, but without effective drug counseling, many offenders find themselves returning to jail shortly after they get out.
"Probably about 95 percent are up in jail because of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both,” Sheriff Amazi said. “We don't very often arrest sober people."
Experts said it will take a community effort to truly combat the drug problem in Minnesota, but added that the key to finding a solution will ultimately start with families.
"Only the first names are changing in our jail and that's probably the biggest issue,” Sheriff Amazi said. “The family is definitely the biggest issue in combating drug abuse."
Sheriff Amazi said a lack of strong parenting has led to an increase in the number of serious crimes committed by juveniles in Mower County.
But statewide, the BCA report showed juvenile arrests in 2013 were down almost 19 percent from 2012.