Community Coming Together

Last week a terrible tragedy happened in Minneapolis when a house was targeted by gunfire and a 5-year-old boy, Nizzel George, was struck by a bullet and killed. Any loss of life due to violence is hard to bear, but losses like this — of innocent children due to gunfire — break our hearts.

I am proud, but not surprised, that members of our community came forward with information that led to the arrests of two juvenile suspects. I am also proud, but not surprised, that Minneapolis Police worked around the clock to bring about justice. The County Attorney has been an exceptional partner in making sure that the individuals involved will face proper and serious consequences for their actions.

We are outraged and should be, and so should this entire community. We ask people to use that outrage not to turn to more violence, but to bring forward every additional piece of information that will help us resolve this crime.

Beyond that, we need to do two things. We need to double down on the Youth Violence Prevention work that we started in 2008 and we need to stop the flow of illegal handguns coming into our city. You will be hearing more about this from me. We especially need to make sure that our children are not armed.

In 2008, we launched a comprehensive, public-health strategy to bring down young-adult and youth violence. The “Blueprint for Action” rests on four principles:

  • Connecting every youth with a trusted adult.
  • Intervening at the first sign that youth are at risk of violence.
  • Restoring youth who have gone down the wrong path.
  • Unlearning the culture of violence in our community.

It is important for this community to recognize the results that we have gotten from working together on this preventive, upstream approach to youth violence:

  • Youth involved in violent crime is down 59% since 2006.
  • Incidents involving guns and juveniles are down 66% since 2006.
  • The number of youth brought to the Juvenile Supervision Center for truancy violations is down 46% since 2006.
  • The number of youth completing our STEP-UP summer jobs program, which prepares them for the workplace, is up 48% since 2008. *

These are strong results, but they are not enough. Every time a child dies — and particularly, every time a child dies at the hand of another child— it requires every one of us to act as if our family has been violated. Because it has.

We also need to stop the flow of illegal guns into our city and we especially need to keep them out of the hands of our youth. If the young people who are accused in Nizzel’s death are guilty then they are responsible for their actions.So is anyone who helped put a gun in their hands. We need to ask ourselves, who is arming our kids? Then do everything that we can to hold them responsible, too.

Finally, a word for and about the Northside.

In the past 10 years, I’ve spent a lot of time in North Minneapolis: sometimes when celebrating but too often when times are tough. When bad news hits — a tornado, a terrible crime — I’ve seen a community that time and again demonstrates an amazing ability to rebound from disappointment. There is resilience on the North Side that has made people tougher and more innovative, and made even stronger those who have dug in to build their community.

It’s one of the most moving things I’ve seen and bears little reality to the snippets people see on the news.

The ongoing strength of North Minneapolis, even in the face of this recent tragedy, convinces me that we can all dig in, come together as a community and prevent future acts of youth violence.