Many thanks to Minnesota Public Radio for running the following commentary from me on their new website:
To this day I remember what I felt three years ago at the funeral of Brian Cole, a star North High basketball player getting ready for college, who was killed in Minneapolis at the hands of another young person.
I stood at that funeral, one in a string of similar funerals that year, and watched a line of Brian’s peers walk by. In anguish and despair, I pledged to get to the bottom of what was driving youth violence in Minneapolis.
Since then we have invested millions of dollars into public safety. We have implemented cutting-edge strategies now being copied by other cities. And we have rallied this community into action.
In the process, we have broken up dozens of gangs, taken violent criminals off our streets, closed down problem properties that sucked police resources, and injected crime prevention into the center of our public safety strategy.
Now I’m proud to see that crime in Minneapolis is not only falling for the third straight year, but is at the lowest level it’s been in nearly a decade. Violent crime midway through 2009 is the lowest in eight years, and the city’s homicide rate is the lowest in 25 years.
For the first time since 2001, none of the homicides in Minneapolis so far this year was of a juvenile. Other types of violent crime — robbery and aggravated assaults — have seen double-digit percentage reductions every year for five straight years. Even lower levels of “livability” crimes are down more than 22 percent.
This progress on reducing crime was no accident and it wasn’t easy. We made safety our top budget priority, we gave police the tools they needed to be more effective, and we paired tough law enforcement with aggressive crime prevention. Working together, we made Minneapolis much safer — in the worst economy since the Great Depression.
While we’ve made great progress, we shouldn’t stop working at it. These are tough fiscal times, but we must continue to pursue our strategy with proactive, community-oriented policing and by involving the community more directly in our efforts.
To keep crime falling in Minneapolis, our residents and businesses must become part of the solution. Everyone has a role to play. We need residents to join block clubs and work with our police officers to build neighborhood-based safety plans.
We need businesses to do their part and partner with police to keep crime from gathering in any of our commercial corridors. We need community organizations to invest in programs that help struggling families keep our kids on track and out of harm’s way.
Working together we can continue to make this city and this region a safe place to call home. In the process, we can be a model for other cities plagued by crime, to show how a community pulls together in a time of need.