Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Congressman Keith Ellison celebrated efforts to combat youth violence Friday, noting that youth crime has fallen in some neighborhoods.
The Friday forum in north Minneapolis also touted the city's "Blueprint for Action" as a national model to prevent youth crime.
Recent statistics indicate the prevention programs developed as part of the plan have led to double-digit drops in youth violence in some areas of the city since 2006.
"We know we have a lot more to do, but let's mark our progress," Ellison said. "Twenty years ago, it wasn't easy to bring police and the community together to discuss youth violence."
Several city, police and county officials and nonprofit leaders described strategies used to meet the blueprint's four objectives: connecting every youth with a trusted adult, early intervention at the first sign of trouble, restoring youth who have gone down the wrong path and unlearning the culture of violence.
According to the city, youth crime dropped by more than 43 percent in the city's Fourth Precinct which covers much of the city's North Side.
Ellison hopes to submit testimony from Friday's forum about the community-based plan to Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to influence federal efforts to support local and state efforts to prevent youth violence.
"It's not just feel-good stuff," Ellison said. "It helps unify us around the issues facing our community."
Ellison also spoke about the need to make greater efforts to include Somali youth in the prevention efforts and craft "culturally specific" programs to address their needs. In 2008, violence in the Twin Cities claimed the lives of more than a half-dozen Somali youth. The Somali community also has been concerned that young men are being recruited to fight in the civil war raging in their homeland. Federal agents believe up to 20 Somali youth, many of them raised in Minnesota, have returned to Somalia to fight.