Classes started this week in the Minneapolis public schools, and police hope that lunchroom and hallway gossip will help solve two murder cases. They anticipate tips about who shot and killed Quantell Braxton, 14, and Ray'Jon Gomez, 13, this month on the city's North Side.
"Kids are starting school. ... Kids talk. That solves a lot of cases for us," Police Chief Tim Dolan said this week.
Solving the Braxton and Gomez cases and punishing the killers is a goal the entire community can embrace. But it's also important to emphasize another school connection that can reduce violence among young people.
Keeping kids engaged in their education and other positive activities makes it less likely they'll commit crimes. Punishment matters, but prevention is key.
To protect more children from gangs and guns, the community must reach out to at-risk young people and their parents to help provide better alternatives.
To that end, some collaborative school, city and county efforts deserve full support. This year, for example, marked the second annual "We Want You Back" campaign to re-enroll students who have dropped out or missed a lot of school.
The Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board is mobilizing and training hundreds of volunteers as part of the program. During the next two weeks, those volunteers will go to parks, libraries and other neighborhood places where youths gather to build awareness.
Then, on Sept. 10, hundreds of volunteers will walk together throughout Minneapolis, distributing information and talking with young people about re-enrolling in a program or school that offers the best fit for them.
Last year 100 young people signed up on the spot to talk with Minneapolis school staff about getting on a path to earning their diplomas, and 14 students since have graduated.
Leaders from the city and its schools, as well as from Hennepin County, started the program based on similar successful efforts in cities such as Houston and Philadelphia.
Citizens, businesses and caring adults can also help connect more young people to the various activities under the city's Minneapolis Promise initiative.
Under that program, Minneapolis kids can get help from college and career centers in their high schools, summer jobs through STEP UP, and scholarships to attend college or another higher-education institution after high school.
North Side neighbors were shocked and outraged to lose two boys at such young ages. The two shooting deaths led to vigils, demonstrations and pleas for parents to keep their children safe.
Increased community and family involvement is indeed needed to direct children and teens to the right programs to provide positive, constructive things to do.
When young people are surrounded by that kind of support and are doing well in school, they're much less likely to turn to the kind of violence that claimed the lives of Quantell Braxton and Ray'Jon Gomez.
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Anyone who has information about the Braxton or Gomez cases can make an anonymous call to CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477. The organization is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information in either case.