Minneapolis violence interrupters report on 1st year of progress

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A Minneapolis City Council committee heard firsthand Wednesday how an effort to stop violence before it happens has developed over the past year.

Sasha Cotton, director of the Minneapolis Office of Violence Prevention, laid out a progress report on the city’s violence interrupter initiative, which consists of 151 people across seven nonprofit groups that patrol “crime hot spots.”

“Through the first six months of our model, from May through December of 2021, our violence interrupters had more than 8,900 contacts with the public,” said Cotton. “And they mediated more than 1,500 incidents before they became violent.”

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One of those violence interrupters, Connie Rhodes with Restoration, Inc., told the Public Health and Safety Committee that she has witnessed multiple occasions where violence interrupters have been successful in defusing a bad situation.

“He was getting ready to shoot. He had two guns. Two guns. Not one. Two. And he was getting ready to shoot another young man over a dispute,” Rhodes said. “And our violence interrupters stepped in right then and they talked him down. They were able to deescalate him.”

Trahern Pollard, Director at We Push for Peace, told City Council members the rise in violent crime is a very personal issue for him after his son was killed and he urged them to stay the course.

“Again, it takes time. And what we’ve been able to show you in just a matter of six months — six months — is extraordinary,” Pollard said. “I don’t care how you look at it. It’s extraordinary.”

Minneapolis has budgeted $3.9 million for the violence interrupter program for 2021 and 2022.

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