‘They are our future’: North metro group hopes to curb violent crime by engaging teens

North metro group hopes to curb violent crime by engaging teens

North metro group hopes to curb violent crime by engaging teens

A local anti-violence group wants to tackle the growing problem of youth violence in the Twin Cities by expanding outreach in the north metro.

Antoine Jones, Brooklyn Center teen, explained he’s doing everything he can to stay on the right path.

“It’s either you make the right choices or you let other people influence your choices,” Jones said.

Jones is making the choice to spend time after school making dough at Scoreboard Pizza.

“I just choose to go to work, play sports as a basketball player and just choose to not be out in the streets,” Jones said.

Jones said staying out of the streets will keep him alive. The 18-year-old learned to navigate steering clear of the wrong crowds and violence at a young age.

“I feel like recently, it’s been just getting worse,” he said.

A few weeks ago, a Brooklyn Center shooting left six people injured, including juveniles. Windows were shot out in the Girl Scouts River Valleys parking lot while a troop was inside the building.

Police said over 50 bullet casings were left behind.

“I feel like being in this neighborhood, you kind of get used to hearing stuff like that,” Jones said.

Local community members are hoping to change that.

“Sadly, there are some people today, I can tell you, that don’t care if they live past today,” Bishop Harding Smith said.

Smith created a safe space for teens through his organization, Minnesota Acts Now.

RELATED: Outreach group plans to plant roots in Brooklyn Park to keep community safe

He’s hoping to expand efforts into Brooklyn Center to inspire young people to make better choices.

“Some of these kids that are shooting and fighting each other, they don’t even know each other,” Smith said. “They’re fighting a mindset and ideology that says, ‘You’re from this part of town, so I don’t like you.’”

Smith said getting community activists and leaders who kids can relate to inside the schools could help. He said holding conversations about crime, gun violence, gang violence and staying focused would be the goal.

“Right now, we are at the 11th hour. We can still get there,” Smith said. “They are important. Their lives are important. They are our future.”

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spoke with a Brooklyn Center city official in person a few weeks ago about this issue of teen violence, but she declined an on-camera interview.

We reached out to the mayor’s office and the police department multiple times for nearly two weeks, but we have not received a response to the interview request.