Organizers of several Minneapolis crime-prevention groups have temporarily stopped doing street outreach because they say the city hasn’t paid them in weeks, even as gun violence continues to rise.
The groups — including We Push for Peace and a coalition of ministers and gang members organized by Rev. Jerry McAfee that helped guard North Side businesses during the riots that followed George Floyd’s death — had been working with the city to combat crime, particularly in the Third and Fourth police precincts. Under the direction of the Office of Violence Prevention, the groups started patrolling some of the most troubled neighborhoods, talking to gang members and trying to defuse tensions among rival crews before they erupt.
But Trey Pollard, founder and CEO of We Push for Peace, said that promised payments from the city have yet to materialize. Pollard said the group has cut back its outreach, since most of its workers rely on a steady paycheck.
“They can’t continuously keep putting their lives in jeopardy out there, and walking around from 9 o’clock at night to 3 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “It’s been a month now, and we have yet to receive a payment — you can’t expect us to keep doing the work.”
This comes amid an exceptionally violent year in Minneapolis, which has seen homicides double from this time in 2019 and shootings jump roughly 70%. In the most recent homicide, a taxi driver was fatally shot on the South Side after police say he confronted two men breaking into his cab.
Fourth Ward Council Member Phillipe Cunningham said the surge speaks to the need for investing in community-based violence intervention initiatives, while adding that he still sees a need for police in certain situations. He said his office is working to speed up the outreach payments and hopes the situation will be resolved soon.
“That’s one of the reasons that I want to make sure that people get paid in an expedited time, because they have to take care of their families and they have rent, or whatever the case may be,” Cunningham told several dozen Folwell residents who gathered Monday to discuss crime and drug dealing. “And it’s easier to fall back into the life if they don’t get paid in an expeditious time frame.”
In a follow-up interview Tuesday, Cunningham blamed the lapses on the city’s inefficient process for paying contractors, but he stressed that the work of reducing crime hadn’t stopped.
“The city has a responsibility to pay people who are doing high-risk work that requires a special level of expertise and rare skill, for them to be paid in a time frame that matches a fact that this is their livelihood, and that they have rent, mortgages and families to take care of,” he said. “I do not want folks to focus their frustration on community organizations that say it’s not fair for us to work for the city and not be paid in reasonable time frames.”
Spokespeople for the city and the Police Department either didn’t respond to questions about the delayed payments or declined to comment on Tuesday.
Lisa Clemons, a former Minneapolis police officer who started an organization called A Mother’s Love, said that such oversights send the message the city doesn’t value the work of those who sometimes put their lives on the line. Even groups like hers that have a longstanding relationship with the city face a mountain of bureaucratic red tape before they can get paid, she said.
“So for them to have to wait to be paid to do this work, where they’re already struggling and starving, that’s just sad,” said Clemons.
Quantrell Urman started the outreach and mentoring group Turf Politics last year but says he’s never applied for funding from the city on principle.
“I understand those guys’ frustration,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want money out there? It’s dangerous, they’re going to places the city can’t go, they’re doing things the city can’t do.”