Amid violent start to the year, Minneapolis boosts funds for violence intervention groups

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The City of Minneapolis is boosting funding to violence intervention groups.

In the first 12 days of the new year, 14 people have been shot in six separate shootings.

Police said a man was shot and killed at a homeless encampment in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood Thursday morning.

That shooting happened just ten hours after another homicide in North Minneapolis, where one person was killed and two others were critically hurt in a parking lot near Lowry and Bryant Avenues.

On Monday, four people were hurt in a shooting at a South Minneapolis light rail stop on East Lake Street.

The day before, four people were shot downtown near Hennepin Avenue and North Ninth Street.

“We’ve had a number of shooting incidents over the last few days and obviously it’s very concerning for me,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara. “I think this just speaks to the challenges that we are facing.”

Thursday, city council authorized support for violence intervention initiatives, including a cooperative agreement with Hennepin County for a new program called the Youth Group Violence Intervention.

“How we look at it from our office is we are part of an ecosystem of safety and it really is going to take all of us,” said Jen White, interagency engagement manager with the Office of Violence Prevention.

She said the new youth initiative expands an existing program aimed at adults, which includes mental health support, life skills courses and relocation for individuals if necessary.

“It’s really concentrated on focusing on the right people and sending that message that we’ll help you get out of this lifestyle,” White said.

City council also approved an increase in funding for Change Equals Opportunity(C.E.O.), with up to $225,000 now available for that non-profit to continue work in the community.

Executive Director Jamil Jackson grew up on the northside and is currently a high school basketball coach.

He believes it is critical to urgently address the violence.

“We have to move fast. We have to think outside the box. We have to become untraditional,” Jackson said.

He works with young men age 12 to 27, providing opportunities for exposure to other ways of life.

Jackson said he has brought teenagers on college tours, offers to buy them new shoes in exchange for good grades at school and has even taken youth from rival street groups on trips together.

“We took them to Florida, got them on a plane. They didn’t know each other was coming on the trip until they got to the airport,” Jackson said. “But then they got to realize that some of this tension we have toward other people is unfounded.”

Click here to learn more about the work Change Equals Opportunity is doing.

Thursday, the mayor told 5 EYEWITNESS News he believes many of the initiatives are helping to reduce violence but more still has to be done.

“We need to double down again on some of the progress we’re seeing because we want to have another significant drop in crime and specifically violent crime this next year as well,” Jacob Frey said.