Target: Mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak
Goal: Commend Minneapolis for significantly reducing violence through its violence prevention program
President Obama recently started visiting different cities around the country to speak to citizens about his proposals for new gun control laws. He first stopped in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a city that developed a highly successful program several years ago to address its problem of youth gun violence. In addition to tightening restrictions on obtaining guns, President Obama hopes to create a national program similar to the one in Minneapolis that focuses on the root causes of violence instead of simply increasing the prison population.
Minneapolis started its violence prevention program at a time when it had one of the highest rates of youth gun violence in the country. Instead of increasing law enforcement, Mayor R.T. Rybak labeled the problem a matter of public health and created a committee involving the police, social workers, and public health officials. He understood that punishing individuals for acts of violence would not stop the trend of violent crimes, and he instead helped create a program to deal with an environment that was encouraging young people to behave violently.
Officials in Minneapolis conducted a study to find the causes of the violence that was overwhelming their city, and designed programs that would address those specific causes. Among them were mentoring programs to ensure that young people had positive role models, and rehabilitation programs to help young people who had committed acts of violence return to their communities. These changes have led to a significant decrease in gun violence in the city, as well as considerably fewer young people being incarcerated. Mayor Rybak has stated that although his city has made progress in reducing violence, even more violence would be prevented if the state strengthened its gun laws.
The success of this violence prevention program shows that a focus on addressing the root causes of violence can succeed in reducing gun violence without resorting to incarcerating a significant portion of the population. Other communities must follow the example set by Minneapolis and design violence prevention programs that are well-suited for the specific problems facing those communities. Commend Minneapolis for creating a model violence prevention program that has significantly reduced the city’s violent crimes.
Dear Mayor Rybak,
The youth violence prevention program developed in your city recently gained national attention for its success in reducing gun violence while preventing a significant number of young people from being imprisoned. The success of the program can be attributed to the unique approach of involving social workers and public health officials in addition to law enforcement, and to studying the causes of the violence in your city before designing the program.
The problem of gun violence that exists in many American communities cannot be solved by simply increasing law enforcement and incarcerating even more young people. Although violent crimes will continue to plague our country if stronger gun control laws are not enacted, other communities around the country would be able to reduce violence if they created programs similar to the one in Minneapolis.
Your city should be commended for designing a violence prevention program that focuses on helping young people improve their lives, in addition to effectively reducing youth violence.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: LordFerguson via Flickr.