Sunday, October 21, 2018
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Minneapolis continues crackdown on crime
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Antonio Edmund sits inside the Farview Park building in Minneapolis, spending time with a room full of young African American kids. Extended park hours are one strategy being used to help keep kids safe this summer. (MPR Photo/Brandt Williams)
Minneapolis officials have announced another initiative to combat violent crime. The new strategy includes tougher law enforcement measures that target chronic offenders and gang activity. The city has also enlisted the help of several charitable foundations who have donated funds to help keep parks open longer. City officials say they hope kids in neighborhoods most affected by crime will use the parks and stay out of harm's way.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Minneapolis has seen a 50 percent rise in homicides over last year. Police and residents of several troubled neighborhoods have recently witnessed a rash of gang or drug-related violence.

One of those neighborhoods is Hawthorne in north Minneapolis. Just last week a man was shot and killed while attempting to buy drugs. Police say he was shot within sight of children nearby.

"Last Thursday night it was a hot night in North Minneapolis," says Mayor R.T. Rybak, who stands just outside the Farview Park building in Hawthorne.

He recalls a meeting he had with some kids who live nearby.

"On one side of their house was a neighborhood where we've had serious drug activity with increasingly young gangs. On the other side is Farview Park," says Rybak. "And what you really saw at that moment was a choice that so many kids in this city have today. They could walk in one direction and be part of an increasingly violent situation, where there's too many guns and drugs and gangs involved with our kids. Or they could come here to the park."

City budget restrictions have resulted in shorter hours for park buildings and activities. But this new initiative extends city park hours Monday through Saturday until 10 p.m. for six city parks. Farview is one of those parks.

Several charitable organizations are picking up the tab for the extended hours. Contributions have come from the General Mills Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, Target Foundation and the North Way Community Trust. North Way recently gave $100,000 to the city to keep its Phat Summer youth program going.

Emmett Carson, the CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation, says the foundations will work with the community to help bring kids to the parks.

"There are leaders in the community that would like to step up, step forward to put the cultural context that we need," says Carson. "And the Minneapolis Foundation will be working with them to have dialogue about how we have young people make the right choices around Phat Summer, around the increased hours to get in here, and this is the place to be."

Antonio Edmund sits inside the Farview park building, in a room full of computers and chatty young African American kids. He works at the park and plays basketball with the kids, helps them with homework and does arts and crafts projects with them.

"They're playing a little basketball and football games on the Internet, and they're checking their e-mail, and we're doing everything," he says.

Edmund says he's here a half hour before his shift is supposed to start because he just likes hanging out with the young guys. And he hopes the kids get a lot out of coming here too.

"Just to have fun, (so) violence and everything will not be in their future. And us here actually being mentors and father figures to them to lead them down a better road," Edmund says.

This is the latest in crime fighting efforts for the Minneapolis Police Department. Earlier this year, they started the STOP program, which has shifted officers and resources to high crime areas.

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