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Minneapolis Youth Violence Prevention Program Gains Bigger Presence

Date: May 2, 2023

Press Clip Source: Public News Service
Link to source: Here

Nonviolent Peaceforce, which has deployed peacebuilding efforts in conflict zones around the world, is now focusing on addressing youth violence in North Minneapolis. (Adobe Stock)

Some youth violence intervention programs around the U.S. saw their outreach work upended by the pandemic. But a new Minneapolis initiative focusing on de-escalation and unarmed civilian protection is accelerating its efforts. This summer, the organization Nonviolent Peaceforce will open a new office in North Minneapolis, an area that has dealt with cycles of violent crimes involving teens and young adults.

Will Wallace is director of community peacebuilding for Nonviolent Peaceforce, which brought the program to this part of the city a year ago. He said the group is primarily focused on the Jordan neighborhood amid ongoing concerns about violent incidents and drug activity.

"How do we bring about not only peace and change, but then how do we love our neighbors in a way where we can change that corner to a place where our grandparents and our kids can feel safe walking down those blocks," he said.

The program recruits Community Peace Builders, young adults who are trained in risk assessment and de-escalation. Beyond easing tension among peers, they also provide unarmed security at local events. Wallace added the new location puts them in a better position to work with community partners dedicated to rooting out violence in the area.

Wallace says one of the obstacles they are trying to overcome is neighborhood kids as young as 11 and 12 becoming involved in criminal activity.

"They don't have a sense of belonging," he said. "They don't have a sense of care. And so, what we want to do is work with our community partners that are doing good work and help us bring back that community space."

Wallace added over the past few months, some of the young men recruited as Community Peace Builders last year have now assumed mentorship roles at EMERGE, one of the community partners working with Nonviolent Peaceforce in North Minneapolis. That can play a big role in building more relationships among peers who might be receptive to addressing conflict in the area, he said.

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