Local violence prevention groups react to rise in homicide cases

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In the first week of December, a fatal stabbing marked the 35th homicide in St. Paul this year, breaking the record set in 1994.

Minneapolis reached its 91st homicide this week, inching toward the 1995 record, which is 97.

Community leaders said the Twin Cities were headed in this direction.

“Is it heartbreaking? Yeah, but shocking? No,” Rev. Darryl Spence, God Squad member, said.

Spence calls 2021 a year of death and devastation.

He has a front-row seat to the record number of homicides in St. Paul as a member of the God Squad. The squad is a violence prevention group aimed at bridging the gap between law enforcement and the community.

“The saddest thing is now how far will we go? We’ve got a whole month to get through,” Spence said.

With youth crime on the rise, Spence said the group is dedicated to tackling the root of the problem, which starts at home.

“One family at a time. Go get that family, encourage that family to do better,” Spence said.

But he said it’s a solution that won’t happen overnight.

Right across the river, Minneapolis is inching closer to breaking a homicide record set in 1995.

A community leader said it’s likely they’ll reach it.

“I don’t think this winter is going to calm it down. There’s just too much going on. There’s too many guns on the streets,” John Turnipseed, Mad Dads president, said.

Mad Dads is an organization that has been cracking down on gang violence in Minneapolis for the last 23 years.

It’s a life Turnipseed used to live in the 90s.

“I’ve seen a lot of movement from other states coming here. Gangbangers and stuff, they’re here and they’re going to be here because this is the best place to be right now,” he said.

He said the current climate in Minneapolis — including factors like police staffing shortages and reduced traffic stops — leaves an opportunity for increased gang activity, making it more difficult for violence prevention groups to crackdown on crime.

But he said part of the responsibility falls on the community.

“We refuse to let pedophiles walk through our communities. We’ll stop that in a second,” Turnipseed said. “If you took the same attitude about crime and the killing of Black men in our community, we would change it, but it takes the community. The police cannot do it, but they can help do it.”

Spence said this year was a setback, but there’s still hope.

“We’re losing now, but it’s not over. We’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to keep fighting until we can say we finally won,” Spence said.