Minneapolis Leads the Way on Youth Violence Prevention
President Obama's first appearance in support of the administration's comprehensive gun violence prevention plan took place in Minneapolis, MI—a city that has successfully piloted a similarly progressive crime reduction plan in recent years.
After the Minneapolis murder rate spiked during the mid-2000s, the city implemented a plan to curb youth violence, Blueprint for Action, in 2008. Since then, homicide and violent crime rates have fallen among young people in the area.
The plan was born after the city’s attempts to curb youth violence through traditional methods were ineffective, said Alyssa Banks, youth violence prevention coordinator for the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support.
“Folks were looking for a new approach that could be taken,” Banks told Campus Progress. “They realized that just arresting kids and locking them up is not going to solve the problem, and we really need to be looking at the underlying causes and factors that are leading young people and communities to be involved in violence.”
The four-part plan aims to connect young people with trusted role models, promote early intervention for struggling youth, keep juveniles in the criminal justice system from becoming repeat offenders, and examine how violence is portrayed in the media. It also advocates job training, rehabilitation, and a crackdown on the illegal sale of firearms. The Blueprint is a collaboration among many different groups that all had the same goal but were having little success individually.
"When the plan was started, it wasn't like there wasn't anything going on in Minneapolis," said Banks. "There were a lot of groups that were trying to address the issue of youth violence. But, where there was a gap was that there wasn't really a comprehensive framework that tied the work all together, that provided a platform for folks to connect their individual efforts together."
Though crime rates have dropped since the beginning of the initiative, Banks cautions that more time is needed to fully assess the results. Still, she is optimistic that similar plans could be enacted in other cities across the country.
“There is a hunger for a model out there,” she said. “And, I think if what we’re doing is perceived as successful, and it could be replicated, then by all means, let’s figure out how to replicate it. But, let’s do it right, so that we’re setting people up for success.”
Kevin Jersey is a reporter for Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @wordsnotbullets.