City takes community approach to curbing youth violence in Cedar-Riverside

The City Council reallocated $43,000 in Minneapolis Police Department funds to create a youth outreach team in Cedar-Riverside.

Community Outreach team member Mark Woods plays a game of Jenga with students at Patrick Henry High School  on Friday, Dec. 7. Woods sees him self as a

Jack Rodgers

Community Outreach team member Mark Woods plays a game of Jenga with students at Patrick Henry High School on Friday, Dec. 7. Woods sees him self as a “positive instigator” who is able to offer mentorship to youth outside of typical school and athletic environments.

Tiffany Bui

With growing anxieties about youth violence in Cedar-Riverside, local leaders are rerouting Minneapolis budget money to bring a outreach team to the neighborhood aimed at alleviating the issue.  

At the Minneapolis City Council’s meeting last Wednesday, council members voted to divert more than $1 million from the Minneapolis Police Department to fund a slew of community safety programs. A portion of the cuts were set aside to bring trained community members that would act as youth liaisons to Cedar-Riverside and Seward. 

“Everybody’s gotten to the point where, hey, you know, we don’t need more police, we need more intervention,” said K.J. Starr, owner of Wienery on West Bank, who advocated to add the program to the 2019 City budget.  

Ward 2 Council member Cam Gordon worked to fit the $43,000 allocation into a budget amendment after hearing safety concerns from the community. The funds will go toward paying for part-time workers trained by the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board, a City-backed youth advocacy group. 

“It’s got great potential to be an effective approach so that we can be more proactive in terms of helping kids and young adults get redirected and engaged,” Gordon said.  

While youth violence has been a long-standing concern of many Cedar-Riverside residents, local efforts to mitigate the issue ramped up in the fall. Starr said small business owners and mothers in the neighborhood have led the charge for more police officers and youth programs

Businesses pooled together money in the fall to hire off-duty police officers to patrol the streets, Starr said. She estimated that local businesses raised around $9,000 to pay for the officers. According to a budget estimate Starr sent to Gordon, two youth workers would cost $870 for three days a week added to a one-time cost of $2,000. 

Budget money dedicated to the YCB will be used to hire new workers, some of whom Starr hopes will be from Cedar-Riverside.

“We need East African youth workers in our community. We need people that are of the community and reaching out to the folks that need help,” said Starr.

The YCB currently has programming in downtown and North Minneapolis. The organization trains workers to talk with youth and connect them with resources, like where they can find food or shelter, said YCB Executive Director Ann DeGroot.

“They have become a real source for young people who don’t identify with adults,” DeGroot said. “They represent caring adults and safety and stability.” 

DeGroot said the organization serves all kids and focuses on those who are “off in the corner” and may need extra help. 

“Our beauty is our team members who were once those kids. Those kids downtown, those kids who were lagging behind from class to class,” said DeGroot. “Sometimes the things [kids] need is someone to smile at them and say ‘hello.’”