Killings prompted program in Minnesota
Minneapolis officials knew they had to do something when homicide became the leading cause of death for the city's residents between the ages of 15 and 24. Between 2003 and 2006, some 80 kids were killed in the city.
In 2006, the city began an effort that would become the "Blueprint for Action," a multi-faceted plan to combat youth violence.
The effort, championed by Mayor R.T. Rybak, involves a mix of law enforcement and public health strategies to tackle the problem, with help from a host of community organizations.
The broad goals are to connect every youth with a trusted adult, intervene at the first sign of trouble, rehabilitate kids who have gone down the wrong path and unlearn the culture of violence.
Solutions included mentoring programs, expanded park hours, a tip line, a diversion program for non-violent offenders and a juvenile supervision center where wayward kids are assessed and connected with services.
The end result has been a steady drop in youth crime. Preliminary numbers show a 27 percent decline in violent crime over the past two years alone, police Lt. Michael Sullivan said.
Bass Zanjani, the city's youth violence prevention coordinator, said community involvement is the key to the plan's success.
"If you really whittle the blueprint down to its basic parts, it's really an effort to surround youth with a culture of support," Zanjani said.
"If there is a culture of support, youths will ultimately succeed."