Mpls., West Bank to work on reducing gang violence

$75,000 will go to preventing Somali gang violence in Cedar-Riverside.

Despite this yearâÄôs budget woes, the city of Minneapolis set aside one-time funding to help reduce youth violence on the West Bank. As part of Mayor R.T. RybakâÄôs 2009 budget , the city reserved about $75,000 to develop a program specifically aimed at preventing Somali youth violence in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. The program is expected to be up and running by spring. Second Ward Councilmember Cam Gordon said the city is going to use the funding to focus on Somali youth violence because of recent homicides in the area. Last September, Ahmednur Ali, a 20-year-old Augsburg student, was fatally shot while walking home in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Although serious crime in the area fell 12 percent in 2008, concerns still exist among Cedar-Riverside neighborhood leaders and community members. Abdirizak Mahboub, a Cedar-Riverside community leader, said this will become a bigger issue as summer approaches and youths spend more time outside. Mahboub also said that the areaâÄôs large population, combined with generally low incomes creates an environment for crime. According to 2000 census data from the City of Minneapolis, more than 50 percent of the Cedar-Riverside population is considered low income, or making less than $16,000 per year for a family of four. âÄúWe are really kind of frustrated,âÄù Mahboub said. âÄúKids can be falling to criminal activity because of lack of resources here within the community.âÄù Claudia Fuentes, policy aid in the mayorâÄôs office , said the program is still in its early planning phase, but the city is currently piloting programs to get local youth to move away from gang activity. Fuentes said she has also been working with both the young and older generations in the Somali community to discuss where the one-time funding should be applied. Some have suggested putting the money toward activity centers in the Somali community, she said. Mahboub said the city could also use the funding to help create jobs for youths in the area. Ben Marcy, president of the West Bank Community Coalition, said the program is âÄúon their radar,âÄù but no decisions have been finalized yet. âÄúWe are waiting for the lead councilmember GordonâÄôs office on the steps we need to be taking,âÄù he said, âÄúbut we have been voicing our concerns.âÄù In January 2008, Rybak and other city and community leaders launched the Blueprint to Prevent Youth Violence, a multi-year action plan that takes a public-health approach to treating youth violence as a preventable problem, according to the cityâÄôs website. This could have directly related to a 17 percent drop in juvenile crime in 2008, Fuentes said. âÄúYouth violence prevention has so frequently been seen as something corrections should take care of,âÄù Fuentes said. âÄúCorrections is a piece of it, but just a piece. We need to go upstream and identify preventive factors so that they are less likely to ever engage in factors that will put them at risk.âÄù