Introduction to the Blueprint for Action
Violence in neighborhoods and communities exacts a toll that goes far beyond the victims and their families. Witnessing violence or living in a community besieged by violent activities not only leads to physical and mental health issues, but also exacerbates widespread unhealthy behavior and a diminished sense of community wellbeing. In some neighborhoods in Minneapolis, this has led to significant disinvestment by the business community, mass migration of single family households, reduction of property values, and an overall sense of hopelessness among community members. The impact of violent behavior can reverberate beyond the immediately impacted neighborhoods and spread to other cities and regions.
In 2008 the City of Minneapolis, in partnership with Hennepin County and The Minneapolis Foundation, launched a strategy called "The Blueprint for Action" to address young adult and juvenile violence. Approximately 80 Minneapolis residents between the ages of 15 and 24 died as a result of homicide from 2003-2006. Homicide was the leading cause of death for Minneapolis residents in this age group, accounting for almost half of all deaths.
The Blueprint advanced a multi-pronged, multi-year effort with the belief that youth violence is both addressable and preventable. "The designation of youth violence as a public health issue complements the more traditional view of the problem as a criminal justice concern" 1
By adopting a public health approach to violence, City policymakers asserted that the problem-solving approach that has worked in many different arenas (safe water and air, childhood immunization, prenatal care), should be brought to bear on the issue of violence. Central to the public health approach is a well-defined process of participation and collaboration, measurement, and communication - all critical tools needed to address violence given complex factors that lead to it.
The following diagram represents a side by side comparison of how the public health methodological approach addresses two distinctly different diseases:
A Public Health Approach
Vaccines for all
Education and support for all
Targeted efforts to vaccinate babies, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems
Targeted efforts/interventions to reach youth living in high-crime neighborhoods and those with low school attachment and little family support
Tertiary Prevention or Intervention
Treat patients who have the flu
Rehabilitate youthful offenders and provide services for youth victims
Youth/Young Adults and Target Communities
Initially, emphasis was on youth aged 8 to 17 who reside in five neighborhoods experiencing the highest rates of crime and violence and who face factors that place them at higher risk for being a perpetrator or victim of crime.
In 2009, the Blueprint neighborhoods were expanded to encompass 22 neighborhoods, using indicators that demonstrated a higher risk for youth violence in Minneapolis. The data for these indicators are readily available and allow for on-going monitoring and prioritization of neighborhoods. Resources for prevention efforts are limited; as a result, focusing resources can ensure that youth who are at greatest risk of getting involved in violent behavior receive appropriate interventions and programming. The six neighborhood criteria are:
- violent crime
- firearm-related assault injuries
- population under 15 years of age
- percent of families in poverty with related children under 18, and
- access to a Minneapolis Park and Recreation Center.
Ultimately, the Blueprint's target population is all youth in Minneapolis ages 10-24.
The Blueprint has served as a platform for significant systems change and resource allocation in a coordinated manner. Among the achievements:
- SPEAK UP Tip Line - Launched confidential tip line for Minneapolis youth and young adults to call or text in the threat of weapons in the community.
- StreetReach - Engaged youth who exhibited signs of at-risk behavior for violence and other negative situations. Services included mentoring, and providing resources, recreational activities and other positive adult connections during summer months.
- Expanded summer hours at parks - Helped leverage resources to expand hours at parks in 9 neighborhoods that were prone to greater levels of violence.
- Leveraged resources - In 2008 & 2009 leveraged $514,000 of Empowerment Zone funds to 9 community organizations to support several youth development initiatives including employment opportunities for youth, parent support programs, Youth are Here Buses, and teen pregnancy prevention programs.
- Hospital protocol - Launched a protocol with two Trauma 1-level hospitals to intervene and provide psycho-social assessments within 24 hours to every youth aged 10-24 presenting a violent injury to the emergency room. Patients are then connected with appropriate community-based organizations.
- North4 - Launched a pilot employment program for gang affiliated youth who had trouble gaining employment due to their criminal background. Program helps employ and rehabilitate former offenders interested in making a change in their life.
- Youth Violence Prevention Toolkit - Created a toolkit for parents and community members to use throughout the year as a means of continuing the dialogue on the necessity of preventing juvenile violence.
- Engagement Zones and Center of Excellence - Partnered with the University of Minnesota to leverage assets at the University for the establishment of a Center and to help implement the Blueprint in target neighborhood.
- Youth Violence Prevention Act of 2009 - Successfully lobbied for the passage of state legislation which declared youth violence a public health issue statewide and created 3 additional pilot sites in Minnesota to be modeled after the Blueprint.
- Gang Assessment Report - Conducted an assessment of the capacity of organizations to engage and address gang-affiliated youth in four neighborhoods that had the highest rates of violent and gang crime.
- B.U.I.L.D. - Gang prevention and healthy youth development curriculum that is intended to increase street-based outreach focusing on specific high-risk neighborhoods
At its most basic level, the Blueprint for Action provides a platform for planning, resource allocation and strategic decision making. The ultimate success of the Blueprint is predicated on the extent that community stakeholders are a part of the process. Owing to the tremendous resources and efforts already underway in Minneapolis, engagement of traditional and non-traditional stakeholders has been a primary objective. Groups such as neighborhood associations, faith communities, schools, libraries, parks, corporate and local businesses, and block clubs have joined the ranks of youth development/serving organizations to provide a broad network of interested parties working together with one common theme: the eradication of youth violence.
Continuing the Momentum
The task of working upstream to prevent youth and young adults from committing violent acts is a long-term process. Less measurable and equally as important is the hopeless feeling many at-risk and high-risk youth and young adults face in their struggle to overcome the challenges, distractions and negative influences in their surroundings. The very real issues they face are manifold and sometimes not easily discernable to others not in their environment.
Minneapolis has a storied tradition of mobilizing the community to work for the common good and for the benefit of those in greatest need. We hope you will consider yourself part of the solution to end youth violence and partner with us..
We welcome your input, ideas, recommendations and stories on how this plan can be implemented in your neighborhood or block. Above all, we welcome your willingness to support our collective efforts in making a commitment to our youth that we will rise to the occasion and ensure we are building a better community today for a better future tomorrow.
1 CDC Youth Violence: A report of the Surgeon General
2 U.S. Department of Justice Report: A Review of Minneapolis Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. January 2010
3 As of the first week of November 2011
4 City of Minneapolis Youth Violence Prevention Results Report: 2010
Last updated May 12, 2014