Partnering to reduce youth violence: Children’s Hospitals and Bike Cops for Kids

I had a great time today at Children’s Hospital, and I haven’t always been able to say that. Children’s is a tremendous institution that does great work in our community, but I’ve also had to spend some difficult days there with youth victims of violence — or even harder, with their survivors.

But today was about celebrating the success we’ve had in preventing youth violence and the success of one of our best tools in particular: the Bike Cops for Kids. We were at Children’s Hospital to do so because Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota is partnering with us this year to expand Bike Cops for Kids and double the number of helmets that the Bike Cops will distribute to at-risk youth this year. Dr. Alan Goldbloom, president and CEO of Children’s and a great partner, joined Craig Vana from the Minneapolis Public Schools, Sherenia Gibbs of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and me — as did our Bike Cops officers and some really great kids who are students in Minneapolis schools and active users of Minneapolis parks.

You can read more about the partnership here, but I wanted to make sure to highlight a few results. First, the spectacular growth of the Bike Cops for Kids.

  • In 2009, two officers gave away 360 free helmets and 31 free bikes to youth on the North Side.
  • In 2010, three officers gave away 720 free helmets and 62 free bikes to youth on the North Side and in the Phillips neighborhood on the South Side.
  • In 2011, eight officers will give away 1,440 free helmets and 70 free bikes to youth on the North Side, in Northeast Minneapolis, and in the Phillips, Lyndale, Central and CARAG neighborhoods on the South Side.

This growth is nothing short of spectacular. In addition to the support from Children’s, for which I’m very grateful, I want to thank again Mike Ciresi and the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children and Dean Phillips and the Phillips Family Foundation for their ongoing support of the Bike Cops since the start of the initiative.

I also want to single out Officers Mike Kirchen and Mark Klukow, who have shepherded this initiative from the very beginning. Bike Cops for Kids has become what it is today because of their vision, their enthusiasm and their tireless commitment to improving our communities and our kids’ lives.

Show your support today for Mike, Mark and all the Bike Cops: “like” them on Facebook and follow them all summer. They update regularly and it’s a lot of fun to keep up with them.

The second set of results that I want to highlight is the reduction in youth violence in Minneapolis since 2006. In the wake of a shocking outbreak of youth-driven violence that year, community leaders came together to launch the innovative Blueprint to Prevent Youth Violence, a multi-faceted, multi-year action plan to attack the core issues behind the violence. We approached it like a public-health epidemic that can be prevented, and this approach has shown that it works: since 2006

  • the number of youth suspects in violent crime has declined 62%,
  • and the number of youth arrested for violent crime has declined 52%.

I’m proud to co-chair the Youth Violence Prevention committee with an amazing set of partners. Just this week, we released a new toolkit of activities aimed at helping youth, families and community partners reduce youth violence. I encourage you to take a look.

The work of preventing youth violence is ongoing, and the Bike Cops for Kids and the Blueprint to Prevent Youth Violence keep us anchored in the work keeping our youth and our communities safe.

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