Somali kids need help to avoid gangs, new report saysby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
The city of Minneapolis needs to target more resources toward helping Somali youth avoid poverty, homelessness, truancy and criminal activity, according to a report released Thursday by the city's civil rights department. The report expressed concern about the presence of organized Somali youth gangs and offered some recommendations on how to stop their spread.
Minneapolis, Minn. — The city commissioned the study after some Somali teenagers were arrested for a series of robberies in the Uptown area of Minneapolis in 2005. Then-Civil Rights Department Director Jayne Khalifa responded to strong community reaction to the crimes, by initiating the study. The report's author, consultant Shukri Adan presented her findings to members of the city council.
Adan says at first it was thought the Somali youth were involved in loosely organized groups of "troublemakers". However, Adan says as these young people ended up in jail, they met established gang members and learned from them how to organize.
"They're very sophisticated and they've adapted some of that into the Somali gang structure. But for the Somali gangs that I've identified, they were specifically Somalis and all their membership were Somalis, even though they had associations with other gangs."
The report names three Somali gangs: The Rough Tough Somalis, the Hot Boyz Gang and Somali Mafia. Their members are suspected of committing armed robbery and using drugs. The report also states that while Somali gangs tend not to have formal leadership, they are becoming more sophisticated. In some cases, gang members bailed their colleagues out of jail and collaborated with other gangs.
The report says gang activity is relatively small. Statistics from the Minnesota Gang Strike Force identifies 52 Somali gang members - less than one percent of all known gang members in Minnesota.
The refugee experience is partially to blame for the gangs, according to the report. Fractured family structures and post traumatic stress disorder have accompanied many of these young people from refugee camps to Minnesota. And the report's authors say, many Somalis are reluctant to seek out medical attention.
Shukri Adan says the city needs to fund more youth outreach workers in order to convince young people to get help.
"Community outreach is important step in this process, because those youth workers would be able to work with those youngsters on a daily basis. And be able to identify, who is at risk, who is in the gang and how we can rehabilitate them and how we can bring them back. And the ones that were being targeted, how can we do some preventative measures," she said
Adan says three part time youth outreach workers cover the Cedar Riverside area. She says more than 3000 Somali youth live in that part of town.
- All Things Considered, 01/18/2007, 5:23 p.m.