The statistics rattled off by Hennepin County officials at a recent commission briefing on gun violence were gloomy and unsurprising.
Homicides, reports of gunfire, emergency-room gunshot victims and carjackings have all increased dramatically. That's despite commissioners directing more money to prevention, approving $10 million in federal dollars in February for violence prevention initiatives.
Other agencies have taken notice of the surge in violence. Last week, the State Patrol agreed to send troopers to help patrol streets in Minneapolis. The state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will help the Minneapolis Police Department with investigations.
The COVID-19 pandemic and fallout from George Floyd's death in police custody were described as factors in spikes in violent crime throughout the country. The dwindling officer count at the Minneapolis Police Department is also considered a factor.
One statistic presented to commissioners was particularly telling. Reports from ShotSpotter — the acoustic sensor technology used by police to pinpoint where shots were fired — jumped from approximately 5,000 shots recorded in 2019 to 12,000 in 2021.
During that time period, the Hennepin County attorney's office saw a significant jump in the number of cases it has handled involving firearms, especially among juvenile offenders.
From 2019 to 2021, there were 238 homicide victims throughout the county. Of those, 59% of the victims were Black and 41% were men age 15 to 34. Overall, 87% of the victims were people of color.
In addition to the obvious trauma of injuries and deaths, commissioners were reminded of the impact beyond the victims of gunfire. Violence in neighborhoods limits economic growth and prosperity, creates housing insecurity and prevents use of public spaces. For the offender, it leads to placement in the criminal justice system, academic difficulties and barriers to employment stability.
The briefing also highlighted the variety of violence prevention programs the county already has in place and plans to enhance. Those include hospital-based violence interruption service for victims ages 12 to 28; gender-specific, 24/7 violence intervention services for youth up to age 24 through credible messengers and violence interruption; and intervention and outreach through community providers in neighborhoods experiencing high levels of crime and violence.
The County Board has funded violence intervention programs, neighborhood revitalization efforts and youth programming and mentoring. The county has 58 gun-violence reduction providers that offer services in these areas.
Other prevention efforts have been in place several years, such as the domestic abuse service center, the sheriff's office community engagement team, the criminal justice coordinating committee and social workers embedded with law enforcement.
As part of the $10 million funding by the County Board, the county will create a coordinator position to manage violence reduction strategies and develop a long-term plan in coordination with other county programming focused on reducing disparities and violence prevention.