OPINION | Engaging youth In violence prevention

As we participate in Minneapolis Youth Prevention Week (March 18th-22nd), we should acknowledge that there’s an important, untold story about reduction of violence in the Twin Cities.  As President Obama did on his recent trip here, we need to acknowledge and engage youth in helping to reduce violence in our communities. Instilling a culture of peace among youth and utilizing their ingenuity to create solutions with adult decision-makers are some of the best ways to reduce violence across generations. Recognizing that young people have 2,000 hours of discretionary time – nearly twice the time they spend in school, Minneapolis wisely has helped curb youth violence by emphasizing the central role of youth engagement and high quality out-of-school time programs.The peak hours for youth involvement in violent crime — both as perpetrators and as victims — are between 2 and 6 p.m. A California study of afterschool programs showed that violent acts decreased by more than 50% for youth involved in afterschool programs. Closer to home, we have seen a reduction in youth violence in recent years. The Minneapolis Blueprint for Action on youth violence has helped strengthen protective factors for youth, through involvement in intervention programs and connections to caring adults. This broader way of thinking about the time youth spend after school can help reach the young people who are most at risk of causing or experiencing violence. A good example is the award-winning Brotherhood Inc., a Saint Paul nonprofit that helps young African American men ages 16-24 who are involved or are at risk for involvement in gangs or the criminal justice system. Brotherhood recognizes that African American males have moved from being at-risk to being in crisis. They face the highest rates of unemployment and homelessness, and the greatest high school drop-out frequency. Continue Reading