Finding a way to stop the lethal upswing in youth violence in Milwaukee has become ever more imperative. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Ashley Luthern and Precious Lives producer Emily Forman visited Minneapolis to learn how that city is handling youth violence, and what Milwaukee can learn.
Minneapolis' Youth Violence Prevention Plan
For years now, Minneapolis has been following a citywide plan it created to reduce youth violence. "(The plan) essentially brings government agencies, law enforcement, non-profits, businesses all together to really look at how you prevent youth violence," Luthern says.
The Minneapolis Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence is framed by really broad goals, but Luthern says, having those goals really drive the work that is done. The goals include connecting every young person with a trusted adult, intervene at first sign of “at risk” behavior, rejuvenate kids and attack the culture of violence.
"Having this plan and a space to really bring everyone together is what (Minneapolis) has found to be so valuable," Luthern says.
Minneapolis also frames youth violence as a public health issue. "They actually made a resolution to declare gun violence a public health issue in Minneapolis and I think that show of commitment from the health department was really an important message for the community in showing that the city cares," Forman says. "It changes the narrative, it makes it more complicated, that this is a problem that is more than just law enforcement and bad people. There are these upstream factors that contribute to violence."
What's Being Done in Milwaukee?
Luthern says that Milwaukee officials are aware of Minneapolis' plan and a Milwaukee plan is currently in development with the mayor's office, Community Advocates and Jon Richards. "I think something that Milwaukee has struggled with generally is having a lot of disparate groups working on this issue, but just not in a collective way...There's a lot of interest in doing that, but it's kind of hard to bring everyone together," she says.
Precious Lives, the weekly radio series on youth gun violence, has begun holding small table meetings to connect community partners with each other. "(Precious Lives' engagement coordinator) has been having really interesting groups, where it might be three people representing organizations, coming together and realizing they are connected in some way and that there are some opportunities to work together," Forman says.
How Much of What Minneapolis is Doing is Translatable to Milwaukee?
Luthern says that it is important to remember that Minneapolis is just one example. "We are not saying this is the only solution...or the best," she says. "Minneapolis and Milwaukee are very different when it comes to poverty rates and demographics, but the idea of having a plan is something Milwaukee has already done for other issues. We've already done it for infant mortality,...for teen pregnancy with good success."
"If we’re not at a tipping point now, I’m not sure when we will be...I think this is an issue where a lot of people are talking about it. I think a lot of people want to do something more...I think there is a real desire to do that. I think the time is right for Milwaukee to do this," Luthern says. "And they are putting something into development so it seems like city leaders agree."