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Tackling domestic violence, a key component of the project, has produced immediate results. Incident reports have increased as residents realize that reporting violence doesn’t cast shame on the community, said First Precinct Inspector Medaria Arradondo.
‘It helps with your life’
Interacting with young people also has been a priority.
Kirchen coordinates a program that has given away 500 bicycle helmets and a dozen bikes. He often eats lunch at the Brian Coyle Community Center, a gathering place for Somalis. Ibsa Mussa, 22, who volunteers to run the center’s soccer games, says kids share stories with Kirchen as they eat and get to see an officer doing more than responding to a 911 call.
“They talk about him all the time,” said Mussa. “I like what the officers are doing. … It helps with your life.”
Community activist Abdirizak Bihi said the PERF project has “changed the whole landscape,” especially with young people.
“I was talking to 8-, 9- and 11-year-olds, and they are saying words like, ‘They are the good guys,’ ” he said. “I think this should be a model. I live here. I have kids here. I’ve never seen a program have an impact in such a short time.”
Denise O’Donnell, Bureau of Justice assistance director, said preliminary indications are that the project, which is scheduled to wrap up this fall, is working.
“We expect that this work will lead to a national model that cities can implement to build stronger trust … resulting in violence reduction and prevention,” she said.
David Chanen • 612-673-4465