Gun violence is down, but City initiatives continue

Recent City Council presentations highlighted the work by many City departments stuff to curb violent crime and address social concerns.

J.D. Duggan

The Minneapolis City Council is continuing its crackdown on gun violence following multiple high-profile incidents. 

Although the number of gunshot victims is down 9 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, according to a City presentation last week, recent shootings in neighborhoods surrounding the University of Minnesota have drawn concern from residents. The City is bringing different stakeholders together through the Group Violence Intervention Program to disrupt cycles of violence and pull guns from the streets. Recent presentations to City Council highlighted various aspects of GVI to multiple Council members.

Ward 3 City Council member Steve Fletcher said the proactive citywide, community-based approach will have a positive effect throughout all Minneapolis neighborhoods. He said by viewing the issue as a public health concern, the City focuses on root causes of violence and on finding actual solutions.

“In many ways, it’s a choice to treat one thing as an individual approach where we blame individuals, versus treating it as an epidemic,” Fletcher said. “And the question for me is not which is the right way of thinking about it, but what gets us to actual solutions?”

University-area wards accounted for around 18 percent of shootings from 2016 to July 24 this year, with almost all of these taking place in the Cedar-Riverside area. This is in stark contrast with North Minneapolis wards, which accounted for around 57 percent of shootings.

“To a degree, the University itself is not necessarily one of those places that deals with a lot of the violent crime that we see in Minneapolis, whether it’s the shootings or the homicides,” said Minneapolis Police Department Lt. Matthew St. George.

He said shootings and homicides are confined to very specific regions in the city, and the University-area is not one of these regions. But there’s been an overall significant statistical decrease in violent crime throughout the city. He added the gang unit of MPD has confiscated 91 guns this year.

The City’s community-based approach, which sees some outreach in Cedar-Riverside and could expand in 2019, connects police to public health officials and community outreach liaisons to address core issues, St. George said. 

The City has viewed violence prevention, particularly with youth, through a public health lens since 2008, said Sasha Cotton, youth violence prevention coordinator in the City’s Health Department. 

Rather than suppressing negative behavior, she said her team focuses on ways to uplift people and make them safer through pathways to education, employment and community engagement. This includes employing the help of residents formerly involved in gang violence as community liaisons to those currently in high-risk situations.

“We also really try to look at risk and protective factors. Not only how do we … suppress the bad behavior, but how do we uplift the things that make people safer?” Cotton said. “Like personal assets. … If this person were more engaged in their community, would that make them safer? If they had a pathway to education and employment, would that make them safer?”