Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Monday vowed to redouble efforts to curb shootings and other violent crimes, seeking to calm a city still reeling from an exceptionally bloody weekend.
“It’s unacceptable,” Frey said. “Gun violence is one of the most insidious issues we have confronting our country and our response as a city is gong to be swift and strong.”
His comments came as police scrambled to ward off any retaliatory violence after a weekend in which 10 people were shot, four of them fatally. Most of the shootings occurred over a 48-hour stretch on Friday and Saturday.
But the violence spilled into Sunday, when a shootout broke out between three men in a corner store in the 2600 block of Emerson Ave. N., leaving two dead. A 19-year-old is jailed awaiting charges. That shooting, along with the Friday slaying of 32-year-old Liban Mohamed Abdulahi in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, are thought to be gang-related, Frey said. Also on Friday, Steven L. Fields, 42, was found fatally shot multiple times behind a bar in the 2000 block of Washington Avenue N.
Vernell Fields said Monday that his son, who was born and raised in Minneapolis and worked at a hotel, was outside the bar smoking a cigarette when an altercation inside spilled outside.
“They killed my son,” the elder Fields said. “My son is not a violent person; he’s not into that.”
The recent bloodshed comes as the department tries to repair its image in some neighborhoods after a string of controversial incidents, most recently the June shooting death of Thurman Blevins by two Minneapolis police officers.
While the officers involved were not charged, the incident led to calls for reforms.
“Overall, no single idea will erase gun violence, but we can’t be shy about attacking it head-on,” Frey said.
Frey singled out the successes of NextStep, a hospital bedside intervention program, and Project L.I.F.E., a cousin of the Ceasefire anti-violence program that has been credited with reducing violent crime in some U.S. cities. The program, formerly known as GVI or Group Violence Intervention, attempts to prevent violence by focusing on the small subset of individuals and gangs who disproportionately drive it.
Those in the program are given a take-it-or-leave-it proposition: put down their guns in exchange for job opportunities, mentoring and mental health services, or face the full might of law enforcement.
The early results have been promising, said Frey, pointing to double-digit percentage reductions in shootings by targeted groups and an increase in gun recoveries of more than 50 percent.
Frey said his 2019 budget, if approved, would fund the program’s expansion to southeast Minneapolis’ Third Precinct, where gun violence has increased in recent years.
He also promised to address staffing shortages in the north side’s Fourth Precinct — the city’s busiest — which have forced officers to work more overtime, while slowing response times for all but the most serious calls.
A total of 161 people had been shot in Minneapolis as of Sept. 3 — a 13 percent decrease from the 191 gunshot victims in 2017, police statistics show.
Homicides remain down about 29 percent compared with the same time last year. Yet that tally doesn’t capture the weekend’s violence, according to a police spokesman, who said the department records had not yet been updated.
The question of how best to tackle the problem provoked debate from City Hall to the city’s North Side, which experienced the worst violence over the weekend.
Councilman Jeremiah Ellison, whose ward was the scene of several of the shootings, said he plans to meet with community and faith leaders to discuss the weekend violence. He said the focus should be on addressing the social conditions that increase the temptation to lawlessness.
“I think there are certain economic stressors that I think are also going to play a role because of wealth disparities, if parents are having to work all the time in order to stave off homelessness, then we are going to have our youth go unsupervised,” Ellison said.
Lynne Crockett, a lifelong North Sider, said residents are growing jaded by years of violence and unfulfilled promises from politicians to do something about it.
Crockett said she has been to countless meetings with officials “who say your input is valued and important, therefore you should come, you should talk, you should fill out this survey, whatever.”
But, she said, “when it’s all said and done, nothing changes.”