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Chief Franklin, RPD discuss recent shootings, staff shortages and drug problem in Rochester

Rochester Police Chief James Franklin said a newly formed task force has been combatting the recent shootings and other violent crimes in Rochester so far this year.

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Rochester Police Chief James Franklin (middle) addresses the media alongside Olmsted County District Attorney Mark Ostrem (left) and Capt. Casey Moilanen (right) and Capt. Aaron Penning (not pictured) during a press conference July 7, 2022, at the North Station in Rochester. The press conference was in regard to the recent shootings and violent crimes that occurred in Rochester this year.
Erich Fisher / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER – The Rochester Police Department held a press conference Thursday, July 7, 2022, to discuss the recent shootings and violent crimes that’ve taken place in Rochester this year.

So far this year, 11 shootings have occurred in Rochester, a slight uptick from last year at this time which saw 10 shootings. In response to violent crimes in the area, RPD has responded by creating a violent disruption task force to combat these crimes.

RPD Chief James Franklin said this has led to eight arrests and seven guns seized in the last few weeks, 23 guns have been seized overall this year. Franklin highlighted arrests in connection to the shooting at the Holiday gas station in June , a string of gas station robberies also in June , and a search warrant leading to five arrests related to a shooting in southeast Rochester on May 2.

Of the firearms seized, most were handguns, but there were two assault rifles and a hunting rifle also seized.

“These are priority cases for us and we rapidly reallocate and deploy resources necessary to resolve and respond to the problems,” Franklin said. “... (The task force) initiates and coordinates response in identifying suspects and then purposely goes and tracks them down. Ultimately, with the goal of interrupting that cycle of violence in this community. This unified response has worked very well in spite of all the staffing challenges that we have been experiencing in the last couple of years.”

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Franklin said with the violent crimes that have occurred this year in Rochester, there’s been a relationship between the suspects and victims, or the crimes were related to narcotics and drug activity. He added Rochester is not seeing “random acts of violence, which is good, but we are addressing the violent crimes in front of us.”

The drug-related shootings fall under concerns two Rochester mayor candidates brought up during a mayoral debate on Tuesday, July 5, 2022 , in which candidates Brad Trahan and Brit Noser made comments regarding a drug problem in Rochester.

“When you talk to Chief Franklin, he’ll tell you we have a major drug problem going on in our community,” Trahan said Tuesday night.

“I would say we even need a surge in policing given the continued rise in violent crime and drug crime in our community,” Noser said.

These comments are backed up by Olmsted County being deemed one of four counties in Minnesota considered a high intensity drug traffic area (HIDTA), which is designated by the federal program HIDTA within the Drug Enforcement Agency.

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Pictures of guns the Rochester Police Department has seized so far this year. These pictures were displayed during a press conference on July 7, 2022, held by the Rochester Police Department to discuss the recent shootings and other violent crimes this year.
Erich Fisher / Post Bulletin

“We’re proactively working through those issues and going after that, but that’s a significant problem that’s plaguing a lot of different communities and we’re no different,” Franklin said.

Olmsted County joined the program and was given this designation in 2019. The program gives extra federal funding to local law enforcement agencies to help fight drug-related crimes in those communities.

“The (Olmsted County) Sheriff’s Office and Chief Franklin both realized that we needed some help with combating narcotics-related crimes, and so we applied to be a part of HIDTA,” RPD Capt. Casey Moilanen said. “We had to show that we had a large amount of drugs in the county as well as kind of a corridor for drugs, whereas drugs travel through the city and county, and we were easily able to show that.”

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Franklin also gave updates on RPD’s current staffing shortage, saying the department has seven new, fully trained officers in the field, four officers set to graduate at the end of the month and 10 newly hired officers. Franklin said that makes the department only two officers short of its goal.

Erich is a digital content producer at the Post Bulletin where he creates content for the Post Bulletin's digital platforms. Before he moved to Rochester, Erich worked as a sports reporter for Rivals.com covering the University of Illinois' athletic programs in Champaign, Illinois. Readers can reach Erich at 507-285-7681 or efisher@postbulletin.com.
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