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Skip Humphrey: Crime
By Laura McCallum
September 1, 1998

Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

ATTORNEY GENERAL SKIP HUMPHREY, WHO'S SERVED as the state's top law enforcer for the past 16 years, says he's the best qualified gubernatorial candidate to fight crime. He cites his endorsement by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and his attorney general record, which includes convincing state lawmakers to increase penalties for violent offenders and creating a nationally-recognized "Weed and Seed" program, designed to "weed-out" violence in high-crime areas and "seed-in" neighborhood revitalization. Humphrey insists his tough talk on crime isn't just rhetoric.

Humphrey: I mean, more than six years ago, I was the one who stood up and said, "We need to have a gang-strike task force." When I said that, everybody stood up and said, "There are no gangs here! " or "Don't say that! You'll give power to the gangs!" Well, they're there! Let's go after 'em. I was the fellow that said, "Look, you're carrying a gun and you're a felon? You're outta here! You're done."

If elected governor, he's proposing double funding for the state's gang task force, increase gang penalties, and toughen gun laws. Humphrey does not support making it easier for Minnesotans to carry concealed weapons.

Humphrey: People who want to use weapons appropriately for sporting purposes, for collection purposes, have a right to do that. People who need to have a gun for personal protection can get that permit. But this idea of just saying,"Hey, I think I'm going out and buy one today! I won the lottery, I think I'll buy a gun!" That's crazy!

In addition to cracking down on guns and gangs, Humphrey's crime agenda also includes prevention initiatives; more funding for Weed and Seed and the DARE program and "Community Court" in high-crime neighborhoods - a pilot project where citizens impose the sanctions. Humphrey's prevention philosophy can be summed up in a phrase he tends to repeat every time the issue of crime is raised.

Humphrey: It is not sufficient to take care of things at the state pen. We gotta start at the play pen.

Humphrey says the best way to prevent juvenile crime is keeping kids in school, and he touts another program he initiated called "Learn and Earn" that helps at-risk high school students graduate. Humphrey also wants to put more money into after-school activities, and points out he started the state's first youth intervention program back in the mid-70s, which aims to keep teens out of the juvenile justice system.

One of Humphrey's opponents, DFLer Ted Mondale, finds it ironic that Humphrey would pledge to tackle crime as governor when he's had 16 years to address the issue. Humphrey has a ready response: he's had trouble passing his proposals with a Republican governor, and the attorney general's office doesn't have complete control over crime.

Humphrey: We're not a prosecutor. Not unless we're asked. In the Metropolitan area, we're never asked - that's where county attorneys take it. I'm not always pleased with the plea bargains that take place and all the rest, but I'm very proud of the fact that when I see today that an individual is sentenced as a predatory sex offender, he's going away for the longest possible time available, and that's because Skip Humphrey initiatied that kind of law.

The Republican Party is running radio ads that attack Humphrey for, among other things, voting to reduce the minimum sentence for murder from 25 to 15 years, but that vote came 25 years ago when Humphrey was a state legislator.