State Patrol adding patrols on I-94 in Minneapolis

The Minnesota State Patrol announced it will have increased patrols out for the next 10 day to help with speeders and people who try to flee law enforcement.

The Highway Enforcement for Aggressive Traffic (HEAT) program will run at night from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. and will focus largely on I-94 between downtown and I-694.

In addition to added state troopers, Minnesota State Patrol says it will also have a helicopter to track any driver that attempts to flee a traffic stop. 

"Some drivers are speeding for no reason, while others are fleeing police after committing a crime," Col. Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol said in a release. "These HEAT patrols will increase our presence on the freeways so we can stop speeders and catch criminals who attempt to escape. If you don’t pull over we’re going to find you with our aviation assets."

The MSP says the operation is focused on an area with public safety concerns. Colonel Langer acknowledges that last week, two people were shot in two separate shootings along the same stretch of I-94. He says there’s also concern over gun violence in surrounding Minneapolis neighborhoods.

"I think it’s really twofold. It’s the amount of violent crime in that area and on the freeway as well as the ridiculous speeds that we see. It’s time to get that under control and for us to step up to the plate do everything we can to fix whatever we can fix," Colonel Langer said.

Some advocacy groups have raised concerns about the HEAT Patrol claiming these efforts will target communities of color. The group Communities United Against Police Brutality released a statement saying:

"The Minnesota State Patrol today announced a 10-day program of targeting drivers on Interstate 94 between downtown Minneapolis and Interstate 694 for speeding and other infractions.  They refer to this program as HEAT.  That portion of I-94 runs through communities of color including North Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center.

"The ostensible purpose of this program is to "stop speeders and catch criminals" according to the State Patrol media release.  However, the State Patrol has made it clear that they will stop people for other infractions such as expired license plates or having items hanging from the rearview mirror.

"There is no evidence that people are more prone to speeding or committing crimes on the targeted stretch of highway than on any other.  Instead, this appears to be the kind of discriminatory targeting of people of color that led to the death of Daunte Wright.  It is not lost on us that Brooklyn Center is one of the targeted communities.

"Communities United Against Police Brutality condemns all discriminatory law enforcement activities and specifically condemns the State Patrol’s HEAT program.  We demand this poorly conceived plan be curtailed."

Colonel Langer claims the program is focused on public safety and keeping the highway safe within these communities.

"We hear all different opinions related to more policing or less policing. This is common sense. Speeders are out of control and there’s a violent crime and one of the things that we can do to solve that is to ask our state troopers to go over there and do what they’re really good at and that’s to combat speeding and crime," Colonel Langer said.

"The Minneapolis Police Department welcomes the efforts and assistance of our Law Enforcement partners to help enhance public safety.  We share in the goal of addressing the concerns of the community and in making the city a safe place for residents as well as those who work and visit," a spokesperson for the Minneapolis Police Department.