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Combating the Rise in Carjackings

Problem

The recent spike in crime has included an unprecedented surge in carjackings, with several high-profile examples taking place in suburbs, in broad daylight, in well-surveilled areas. Sadly, many of these crimes are committed by young people. The upfront costs of carjacking are obvious and brutal, but the continued cost of stolen vehicles on the road makes our roads and neighborhoods less certain and less safe.

Solution

Creating a special unit devoted to investigating carjackings, and appointing prosecutors dedicated to stopping these crimes will help arrest the criminals and deter future crimes. Matt will dedicate two office attorneys, one for adults and one for minors, that will ensure that those who wish to participate in this wave of carjackings will face consequences quickly.

Juvenile Crime

Problem

The COVID-19 pandemic suddenly shut down schools, businesses, and systems that provided structure and supervision for thousands of young people. The result has been a rapid rise in juvenile crime over the past two years, some of it violent. In addition, many parents and teens lost their jobs, lost hours, and were forced to find new, less stable sources of income. Rising juvenile crime not only endangers our community, it endangers the futures of thousands of young people, costing them valuable years of their lives.

Solution

The County Attorney’s office must take a balanced approach to juvenile crime. There must be real and tangible consequences for crimes, and the young people responsible are held accountable. At the same time, preventing juvenile offenders from becoming lifelong criminals will keep our neighborhoods safer, save the County millions of dollars, and fulfill a moral responsibility to our children. As County Attorney, Matt will ensure violent juvenile crime policies are updated to match their severity and advocate for increased changes to transparency laws at the state level to improve law enforcement’s approach to the issue.

Providing Timely Justice by Addressing Backlogged Cases

Problem

"Justice delayed is justice denied." - William Gladstone. Unfortunately, Dakota County has a substantial backlog of cases as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and gradual past delays. Failure to address case backlogs means that perpetrators of these crimes aren’t punished or detained, allowing for more criminal activity to take place; victims of crimes do not recover their property or see justice done; witness memories fade, and key suspects leave the state before they can be arrested. The combined impact of such delays makes our communities less safe, less just, and more prone to make accidents or mistakes as overworked staff attempt to push through the tidal caseload.

Solution

The pandemic has forced us all to rethink how work is structured, and who can do what work from where. This massive shift has created opportunities for more efficient, effective, and speedy legal procedures. The office of the Dakota County Attorney should also embrace innovation in process and technology to resolve cases more quickly while improving the quality of the work. Matt will advocate strongly for increased funding to support fighting crime and prosecuting cases quickly and completely. And Matt is committed to addressing the backlog of cases and using technological improvements, as well as a reassessment of current work practices to reduce the backlog.

Addressing Cycles of Sexual & Domestic Violence

Problem

Every person should feel safe in their own home and in our community. Addressing sexual and domestic violence is a key area where smart policy can change community standards that break the cycles of dependency and abuse. Sexual or domestic assaults are particularly destructive as they destabilize families and create spirals of emotional and economic hardship. These crimes are among the most personal, but they also attack the heart of our communities by violating the most sacred trusting relationships that we all depend upon. Mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression are common effects of these intimate crimes, which can also spill over into homelessness for kids and families, loss of jobs, income, and the regular structure of school that children depend upon. Domestic abuse hurts us all and supporting the survivors and their families is a sacred obligation.

Solution

By supporting abuse survivors and their families, we can empower them through every step in the difficult process of reporting and prosecuting these crimes. That support is key to encouraging survivors to come forward, increasing prosecutions, and all the healing process to begin. Developing practices that treat survivors of assault with dignity, equipping County Attorney staff with the best possible training, and conducting an overview of uninvestigated assault cases, are just a few of the initiatives that Matt will use to begin this work. As Mayor of Lakeville, Matt knows that providing staff with the best tools to do their jobs and working with law enforcement agencies create the best public safety outcomes for the people who need it most.

Going After Dangerous Drugs

Problem

Within Dakota County, hard drugs like methamphetamine are an increasing threat to the health and safety of our children and community. At the same time, reckless profiteering by pharmaceutical companies has flooded our communities with powerful drugs and created a massive illegal market for painkillers which spurred the opioid epidemic. Of course, for those who truly need them, legal, prescribed painkillers taken under the instruction of a qualified physician can be an essential, even life-saving, medical miracle. But the illegal sale, transportation, and distribution of these powerful drugs not only keeps a dangerous black market alive, but it also spreads addiction, crime, and pain across our community.

Solution

Working with law enforcement to detain and charge distributors of these dangerous substances is a key priority for Matt. By cutting off the supply, associated crimes will also decrease, reducing the burden on law enforcement and making the community safer. Matt understands that purely punitive policy only encourages disparities and closes the door on rehabilitation. This means working not only with the police, but also with addiction treatment organizations and County resources to help victims of opioids, meth, and other dangerous drugs.

Smarter Marijuana Enforcement

Problem

Minnesota state law charges possession of more than 42.5 grams (1.5 ounces) of marijuana as a felony, punishable by serious jail time. But any smaller amount is only a ticket. What’s worse, these laws create drastically disparate impacts on people of color. Unfortunately, this kind of wildly inconsistent approach, which veers irrationally between extremely severe to extremely lenient, wastes valuable resources on nonviolent offenders while draining time and money that should be spent prosecuting violent crimes and dangerous drugs, such as methamphetamine spreading through our County.

Solution

Taxpayer dollars should not be used to charge or lock up non-threatening individuals for mere possession of marijuana, while the presence of far more dangerous substances and crimes continues to grow. We should focus our limited tax dollars where they will keep our community safe. Matt will raise the amount for what constitutes a felony charge for marijuana possession, and will advocate for comprehensive reform of Minnesota’s marijuana laws.

Matt understands that locking up individuals for a few ounces of marijuana does not make the communities of Dakota County safer but does cost valuable time and resources which allow violent crimes and dangerous drug crimes to go unpunished. Most people understand there are real differences between average use, and criminal organizations selling illegal drugs as part of wider criminal activities. Matt will prosecute major, predatory drug dealers, and cartel members to the fullest extent of the law.

In addition, expunging minor marijuana possession convictions from records is also key to keeping citizens in the workforce, and paying taxes instead of costing taxpayer dollars in jails or prisons. This issue will only increase in importance as Dakota County and Minnesota continue to debate further legalizing the use of marijuana, which is now legal or decriminalized for medical or recreational use in 43 states.

Keeping Communities Safe from Gun Violence

Problem

Violent felons, domestic abusers, and suicidal teens should not have access to guns. And, the rise in gun violence across the state is not isolated to communities where the most publicized violence has taken place. When gun violence occurs in Dakota County, it’s up to the County Attorney to pursue justice for victims and their families. Matt’s extensive work on gun safety and gun violence as Mayor and a State Senator have given him a deep understanding of these issues and an established record of leadership to reduce needless gun violence while protecting the rights of gun owners. While the state of Minnesota has laws that govern the safe and legal usage of firearms, it falls to the County Attorney’s office to enforce measures that are already part of Minnesota state law.

Solution

In the state legislature, Matt was a proud advocate for commonsense, bipartisan measures to reduce illegal gun sales and ensure firearms were cared for by those with the proper licensure and training. These measures make communities safer while respecting those who responsibly own firearms. As County Attorney, he will continue that record by enforcing straw person purchaser laws and pressing state and federal legislators to pass background checks and red flag laws- proposals favored by over 88% of gun owners.

Updating Our Approach to Safety

Problem

The last few years have reminded us all of the importance of fair, effective, respectful law enforcement to keep our communities safe. Dakota County, like the rest of the country, must choose between repeating the past or prioritizing greater cooperation between police and the community. Police cannot be effective if their communities cannot trust them to treat everyone fairly, not to discriminate, and to use violence only when truly necessary. But it is vital to also remember that we place an unfair burden on police- in addition to fighting crime, they must also be social workers, mediators, drug counselors, paramedics, and family counselors, just to name a few. Not only does this burden put tremendous pressure on officers, it also drains them of the time, energy, and resources needed to keep our communities safe. Matt will collaborate with law enforcement and state officials to pioneer a system that reflects our community’s diverse needs.

Solution

In the State Senate, Matt fought for investment for the new Dakota County Safety and Mental Health Alternative Response Training (SMART) Center, a new base of operations for collaboration between law enforcement, the people they serve, and other dedicated parties. Matt will continue with this vision of a collaborative effort to reduce crime by fighting discriminatory practices and equipping law enforcement with de-escalation techniques and the correct resources. As County Attorney, Matt will prioritize diverting nonviolent issues such as mental illness, drug use, and family disputes to other professionals, while focusing police time and resources for cracking down on the most serious threats to the safety of our community.

Establishing a Veterans Court

Problem

Despite their exemplary service to this country, veterans are often asked to navigate the infuriating bureaucracy that strips them of the respect they deserve. This problem only compounds if a veteran is struggling with addiction, mental illness, or other issues, which are often the direct results of their time serving our Nation. Leaving these brave men and women to suffer without help denies the duty of the government and its representatives to honor those few who have protected us all.

Solution

Matt has long worked to secure veterans the resources and attention they deserve. In the legislature he served on the Veterans Committee, successfully staving off cuts to the National Guard, and co-authored a bill for Veteran Suicide Awareness Day. A Veteran’s Court could provide specialized staff, qualified professionals, alternative sentencing, and judges with a deep understanding of veterans and their concerns. As County Attorney, Matt will establish a Veterans Court that will work with veterans in crisis, and while holding them accountable for their actions, also providing the context and resources needed to help them return to life as healthy, productive citizens.

Fighting Elder Abuse, Scams and Financial Crimes

Problem

Our elders helped define who we are as individuals and families. How we demonstrate our love, respect and support for our elders defines who we are as a community. In addition, our most experienced citizens are the greatest resource Dakota County has- supporting every generation socially, emotionally, and financially. Fraud affects people of all ages, but deceptive tactics like robocalls and phishing emails disproportionately target seniors, so we need a focused response in addition to the current broad efforts to fight identity theft and other scams. Even worse, increasing reports of Elder abuse both in care facilities and with home care, are among the most vicious and morally reprehensible of all crimes. Preventing and prosecuting these crimes will be a high priority for Matt as Dakota County Attorney.

Solution

Matt has been fighting for seniors his entire career and the role of Dakota County Attorney will allow him to expand those priorities greatly. As a member of city government, Matt helped to open the Heritage Center to expand senior and veteran services in Lakeville and fought tirelessly for six years to get Metro Mobility transportation services to seniors in Lakeville. Matt has also strongly supported the efforts to reform elder care in Minnesota to better keep seniors safe. As Dakota County Attorney Matt will continue his strong history of fighting for the rights and financial and physical safety of our elders.

Ensuring Justice for All

Problem

Many of the decisions made in the Dakota County Attorney’s office have lifelong ramifications and shape the way our County residents participate in the community. Certain policies such as traffic stops for brake light outages or ticket policies often disproportionately impact low-income individuals without the resources to make repairs. These individuals may then be forced by bail payment policies to spend time in jail simply for being poor. These policies do not make us safer and often waste time and resources, which could be spent pursuing dangerous criminals.

Solution

As County Attorney, Matt would advocate for more effective policies to ensure safety and justice for all Dakota County residents. Changing charging, ticketing, prosecution policies, and ensuring that the County bail system is not used to keep nonviolent low income people accused of minor crimes from getting to their jobs or home to their kids. Matt will use his years of experience at the Capitol and City Hall, to advocate for decriminalizing expired tabs and nonviolent low-level drug offenses; and to change the punishments for minor traffic stops to civil, not criminal, penalties. As Mayor of Lakeville, Matt worked closely with the police department to focus energy where it would have the most impact. Reducing unnecessary traffic stops decreases the likelihood of violent encounters, stops criminalizing poverty, reduces the odds of unconscious racial discrimination, and ensures resources are going towards real public safety threats. Juveniles with low-level offenses should be directed toward diversion programs, restorative justice, and other programs which hold the teen accountable while reducing the chances they will commit more crimes. In addition, Matt will lobby for those who have served their time and have entered community supervision to have the right to vote restored.

Stopping Wage Theft

Problem

Whether through non-paid overtime policies, failing to pay the minimum wage, or skirting prevailing wages regulations, those companies who ignore laws that take money out of the pockets of hard-working men and women must be held accountable. When Matt was in high school, he worked at Walmart and experienced these issues first-hand. Some employees were forced to work off-the-clock, skip their bathroom breaks, and work through lunch breaks for no extra pay. Fortunately, in that case, Matt and many of his co-workers eventually won a settlement and received a small amount of backpay for the money they lost. But, these actions are rarely taken up by County Attorneys but they cost families and our economy money that they rightfully earned.

Solution

Going after those who seek to rip off workers will be a key part of Matt’s approach as County Attorney. Investment in the office’s resources to enforce prevailing wage laws and other investigative resources on wage theft are necessary as wages, particularly the minimum wage.

Protecting Our Environment

Problem

Dakota County is full of beautiful parks, trails, lakes, and rivers that provide a high quality of life and contribute to our economic vitality. Beyond these resources, a healthy environment with clean air and drinking water is essential for families, especially children. Whether it’s toxic waste dumped in our rivers, a local water quality crisis, or companies trying to ship water out of the County, actions like these put the long-term wellbeing of County residents at risk.

Solution

Those who seek to take advantage of the health and vitality of our community will face no stronger opponent than Matt. His range of political and legal experiences, from securing bonding money for sewer systems in Dakota County to advocating for environmental protection across the State, Matt understands that the health of our environment and the success of the County go hand in hand.