In one north Minneapolis neighborhood, kids choose the street or more positive activitiesby Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio
Summertime and the living is easy - but not for everyone everywhere. Residents near an intersection in north Minneapolis watch every evening as dozens of young people gather, some for entertainment, others for apparent drug dealing.
Minneapolis, Minn. — The pace of the evening's entertainment at North 25th Avenue and North Fourth Street in Minneapolis' Hawthorne neighborhood on the city's north side quickens just a bit with the arrival of a reporter holding a microphone.
Teenagers in shorts, T-shirts and flip flops gather around. Younger children on beat-up bikes skid to a stop and stare. A few feet away at the intersection, vehicles from beaters to souped up SUV's with flashy wheel covers outside and thumping sound systems inside glide by.
The young people around the microphone range in age from eight to 14, and they are satisfied there's plenty of activity to keep them busy during the summer at nearby Farview park and elsewhere.
"Yeah, we swim, mall shopping, movies, you know, what an ordinary teen is to do...Summers are the best thing, out of school, get to play around, go to Farview every day, computer labs and all that," the kids say.
But it's not clear how many young people take advantage of the activities. In any case there's always plenty of down time in summer for hanging out. That downtown worries adults concerned the kids will get caught up in the intersection's drug dealing.
In fact, there's no obvious sign of illegal activity at North 25th Avenue and North Fourth Street -- no fighting, no public drinking, no overt drug dealing.
The latest police statistics show that here, in the 1st precinct, crime is up slightly. Over all, crime is down in nearly all Minneapolis neighborhoods. Some of the adults in this neighborhood worry young people will get caught up in the drug dealing.
The only hint of suspicious activity is a lot of traffic at a residential intersection. Young drivers pull up, exchange greetings with others and then drive off, a pattern police say fits mobile drug dealing.
An eight-year-old points out where the dealing occurs.
"People be selling weed on that block right there, weed on this block, weed on that block and weed on this one," he says.
Half a block off North 25th Avenue and North Fourth Street neighborhood resident Antoinette Phillips sits on the steps of her house with her young son. She doesn't like what she sees going on and what it can lead to.
"I've actually had kids, young kids, approach me to buy drugs, and that's not good, because it's like the parents aren't really doing nothing," she says
There's nothing unusual in any neighborhood in Minnesota about young people with time on their hands being outside and out of sight of parents for a while. But resident Faith Johnson says at 25th and Fourth there are children out and about for long periods of time with no sign of any supervision.
"The majority of (the parents are) probably around. What they're doing, that's a different story. I mean I have my grandbabies out here, my grandbabies are out here with me, not by themselves. We have to be accountable for our actions," she says.
Johnson says the police do what they can. A few minutes later a patrol car cruises through the intersection.
The problem is the lack of understanding in our society of how youth will find activity if adults don't step in to guide them, as neighborhood resident Georgiana Yantos sees it.
"It's not just here on the north side, the violence has spread across the city, it's in the suburbs, it's the drugs and the dealing, it's the people coming in from the suburbs to buy and sell here," she says. "It affects us all."
Part of the solution is more adult youth workers, Yantos says. She and other residents applaud the work of groups led by African-American men and some neighborhood churches as they visit intersections on summer evenings to talk to the children and adults. However, they are few in number compared to what residents see as the need.
As for activities, Antoinette Phillips says there are plenty. Schools, libraries, and social service groups offer classes, computers and camps. The missing ingredient in too many cases is the presence of a parent to lead the child to the opportunities, Phillips says.
"Kids are young, if they see all these activities going on and it's more kids there, they're going to run to it. They're growing up fast these days so it's going to take everyone not just the parent," she says.
As evening sunlight fades, Antoinette Phillips, Faith Johnson and other parents gather up their children for bed time. Lots of other children and teens are stilling hanging out, watching the parade of personalities and activities at North 25th Avenue and North Fourth Street in north Minneapolis.
- Morning Edition, 07/19/2007, 7:20 a.m.