North Minneapolis: A study in violence

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 29, 2010 - 8:59 PM

High levels of violent crime in the community will be the subject of a public meeting focused on solutions.

Calling the violence that's ravaged north Minneapolis "a public health issue," a health organization from the neighborhood has scheduled a public meeting Saturday at which academics who have studied the problem will discuss a report they wrote.

"We already know the incidents of homicide and violence in this community are at record levels," said Stella Whitney-West, CEO of Northpoint Health & Wellness Center.

"We see it as a public health issue because it has resulted in a major loss of life and also a loss of quality of life," she said.

She added that caring adults and institutions can make a difference in young people's lives, and she hopes the meeting will spark a dialogue about building a coalition of churches and organizations to help solve the problem.

The statistics in the study, entitled "North Minneapolis Community Violence Report" are from 2006 and show a disproportionately high number of murders and robberies in which blacks were victims and perpetrators. Commissioned by Northpoint, the report was completed in 2008 and given to the agency in late 2009, but it has not been made generally available to the public until now, Whitney-West said.

The organization planned to make updated statistics available at the meeting, which is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Shiloh Temple International Ministries, 1201 West Broadway.

Whitney-West said the causes for the violence cited in the report remain valid. They include poverty, chronic unemployment, high rates of family disruption, a lack of role models and a violence-promoting subculture that includes drug use, drug trafficking and gangs.

"What is needed is a comprehensive violence reduction plan that provides an opportunity for a host of stakeholders to offer their specific expertise within the context of a coordinated community response," the report said.

Ron Edwards, a longtime civil rights activist, was highly critical of the report, saying in an interview that it is outdated and does not take into account the economic crisis of the past two years. He said that crisis hit minorities hard and left many young people with even fewer opportunities for jobs, housing and education.

"You've got too many idled young people with idle minds," he said.

One of the report's authors is Oliver J. Williams, executive director of the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community at the University of Minnesota.

He said one conclusion was that, "If young people are in an environment that supports the use of violence to resolve conflict, or are involved in criminal activity, it increases the risk they are going to be involved in [violence]."

Randy Furst • 612-673-7382

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