Last summer the Messenger did an article on the crime at the public accesses on Mille Lacs Lake. Some were reported to the sheriff’s office, and some were just posts on social media. We decided to look deeper into each of the actual reports of crime from the public accesses - as it would be assumed if a crime was committed - it would be reported. Here’s what was actually reported for all of 2021 from the Mille Lacs County, Crow Wing County and Aitkin County Sheriff’s offices, the three counties that encompass Mille Lacs lake.
Crow Wing County Sheriff’s reports
Crow Wing County covers the northwest corner of the lake and had three crime associated reports, all from the access south of Garrison at 8906 U.S. Hwy 169, Garrison 56450. Friday, June 25, suspicious activity - a male was walking around and checking in vehicles. There were no further details.
Monday, Aug. 23, damage to property - someone had damaged the historic benches with a stone, and on Thursday, Sept. 9, theft - broken passenger side window, the victim later emailed the items missing with an estimated value.
Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s reports
Mille Lacs County surrounds the bulk of the lake, including the west, south and east sides and had a number of reports. They are listed by access.
Shah-Bosh-Kung access, located at 44402 Virgo Rd, Onamia, 56359 (AKA: Cash’s landing - by the casino) had three theft reports: Thursday, May 20, theft - catalytic converter (no value stated), Saturday, May 22, theft - broken rear drivers side window, theft of bag with clothes in it, valued at $300, and on Sunday, June 27, theft - broken passenger windows - theft of work iPad in Otterbox, valued at $800.
Cedar Creek access, located off Hwy 47, Isle, 56352 had two theft reports: Jan. 5 there was a report of a catalytic converter theft on Saturday, Jan. 2, valued at $2,800 and Sunday, June 27, theft - catalytic converter (no value stated) and tonneau cover was cut open, theft of fishing gear, tile sample cases and a suitcase of clothes, valued at $3,000.
Cove Bay access, located at 9752 St Hwy 27, Onamia, 56359 had six reports - one of them theft: Monday, Jan. 4, motorist stuck on lake, Friday, Jan. 22, truck driving recklessly on the ice, Tuesday, Feb. 9, suspicious vehicle, Thursday, Feb. 11, motorist stuck on lake, Friday, Sept. 17, theft - catalytic converter (no value stated). and Sunday, Oct. 10, Vehicle parked in handicap parking spot without credentials.
Father Hennepin State Park access, located at 41294 Father Hennepin Park Rd, Isle, MN
56342 had four reports - no crime reports: Saturday, May 15, public assistance, Friday, June 25, locked out of vehicle, Thursday, July 29, suspicious activity and Friday, Oct. 8, welfare check.
Liberty Beach access located off Hwy 47 north of Isle had no crime reports but on Sunday, Nov. 7, welfare check, and also on Nov 7, a report of an accident at the “Isle public access” which could have been the Thanes River access off Hwy 47.
Aitkin County Sheriff’s reports
Aitkin County covers the north end of the lake and had four crime reports, three from the Wealthwood access, located off Hwy 18, Aitkin, 56431: Sunday, April 25, damage to property, Tuesday, April 27, vehicle theft and Sunday, June 27, damage to property. And one from the access north of Garrison, located at 442nd Place off Hwy 169, on Saturday, Feb. 27, damage to property, no further details.
That is all the reports that were filed with the surrounding Sheriff’s offices around Mille Lacs Lake for public access crime for the year 2021.
Social media exaggerations
The Mille Lacs Lake pages on social media last summer made it sound like the crime was completely out of control at the public accesses, but as the actual reports show, it was far from it considering the staggering number of people that used them last summer.
Mille Lacs Lake Area Fisheries Supervisor Tom Heinrich said, “Last summer we estimated that there were 48,140 boats fishing the lake. About 50% of the use on the lake is through public access sites, which is likely where the majority of the (crime) problems are.”
Taking those numbers and considering the actual number of reported cases - of theft or damage to property, the odds of having a crime committed at a public access on Mille Lacs Lake are one in over two thousand vehicles that use them.
Those are just the summer numbers and don’t take into consideration the winter traffic - as two of the reports of theft or damage to property were in the winter.
So don’t believe all that is on social media concerning the public access crime on Mille Lacs Lake - especially the comments. As usual, some of the people commenting are just spreading the rumor rhetoric that has surrounded Mille Lacs Lake for years.
But be smart when leaving a vehicle in a public place, just like anywhere, don’t leave things of value in plain view - like money. Even loose change in a cup holder can be enough to prompt a break-in. Also, anything that can easily be pawned. It does not take much to tempt a desperate person. And as always, if something suspicious is seen, don’t hesitate to call 911.