Minneapolis officials are alarmed because shooters and victims are growing younger.
The critical wounding of a 12-year-old Minneapolis girl who was shot in the head as she walked home from a party this weekend is fueling increased concern about the dangerous intersection of kids and guns on the North Side.
Police and city officials said the late Friday shooting in the Willard-Hay neighborhood -- like the fatal attack on 14-year-old Charez Jones earlier this summer -- is a disturbing indication that younger and younger children are engaging in gun play.
"The ages of the people being shot and the ages of the shooters has gone down over the past four, five years," said City Council Member Don Samuels, who represents the North Side neighborhoods where both incidents occurred.
Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said Saturday that overall criminal activity among youths has declined.
But there have been several recent incidents of gunfire involving young suspects and victims, Dolan said
The girl, whose name was not released by police, was hit while walking in the 1800 block of Oliver Avenue N., apparently by a shot fired from about half a block away, police said.
No arrests had been made by Saturday evening.
The girl was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where she remained in critical condition Saturday. Her family didn't want to talk about her injuries or the shooting when reached Saturday afternoon.
According to Samuels, gang and other violence among younger teens has increased as Minneapolis moved to "decapitate" the older organized gangs, and "baby gangs" took their place. Many of the shooters are so immature that they don't even comprehend what they're doing, he said. And their targets seem to be younger people.
He recalled one young man who admitted that he was thinking of shooting his own arm, just to see "if it hurt."
At least four boys, one as young as 12, have been shot in the past several weeks in different parts of the North Side, said Dolan. Usually, they've been hit in the lower extremities and the injuries weren't life threatening.
"We're not so clear it's gang-related," he said, although the shootings might be gang initiations.
"I'm praying that she can pull through," Dolan said.
He said police have held community meetings to discuss the incidents.
"We're watching that very closely," he said.
Among the city's 60 homicides in 2006, 11 victims were younger than 18. Eleven juveniles were charged with homicide or related offenses. Among the city's nearly 2,800 reported robberies last year, more than half were committed by people 13 to 17 years old.
Dolan said despite a few high-profile cases, including that of Charez Jones, overall criminal activity involving youths has seen a significant decline -- about 20 percent --compared with last year. Gang activity also has dropped, he said.