Efforts underway in Minneapolis to stop the retaliation after shootingsby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Minneapolis police officials say they fear that the recent killing of a young man near Lake Calhoun will result in more violence. They say shootings like these often result in some form of retaliation.
City officials are trying different ways to prevent crimes of vengeance. One effort targets young people who've been hospitalized after being beaten, shot or stabbed.
Most victims of serious violence in Minneapolis are either taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) or to the emergency department at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale.
"A person's integrity gets shattered, when they get shot," said David Swarthout, supervisor of Emergency Behavioral Medicine at North Memorial.
He says there's evidence to show that victims of violent crime are more likely to act violently in the future.
To help break that cycle, Swarthout and his staff of mental health professionals are doing bedside counseling sessions.
Swarthout said staff are seeing a significant portion of kids with multiple gunshots.
"My thought is that if we spent more time with the kids when they first got shot the first time we might reduce some of the likelihood that they'd come back being shot a second time," Swarthout said.
Social workers and counselors at HCMC are also doing bedside sessions. The program is part of the city's so-called blueprint against youth violence.
Swarthout says so far this year he's seen between 15 and 20 young patients between the ages of 8 and 24. Most patients are male. And Swarthout says the violent attacks leave young men feeling scared and vulnerable.
Fear often leads young men to arm themselves or act aggressively in order to prevent being victimized again, Swarthout said.
The bedside counseling only lasts as long as the victim is in the hospital. And they can be a few days or a few weeks. But they also they help the young people and their parents find counseling outside the hospital.
But even if counselors convince a victim not to act out violently, that doesn't necessarily mean the cycle of violence is broken.
Minneapolis police officials say retaliatory violence is often committed by someone close to the victim, like a family member or close friend.
Fourth Precinct Inspector Mike Martin says officers try to prevent retaliation by making face to face contact with people they suspect will seek revenge.
Martin says they want to send a message:
"Don't do it or we're coming back on you," Martin said.
Martin says officers find it important to talk to potential vengeance seekers in the first days or week after a violent crime, while their grief and anger is still fresh. However, Martin says sometimes a person will wait months or even years before taking revenge.
When psychotherapy and law enforcement fail to break the cycle of violence there remains a cultural approach.
The majority of this year's homicide victims and suspected perpetrators are African American men. Psychologist Dr. Bravada Garrett Akinsanya says too often, young African Americans emulate what they see around them.
"When I think of social violence in our community, I think it's a reaction to -- especially black males -- a sense of powerlessness that they have seen in their society, and their community and maybe even in their families how they've seen people react to that powerlessness," Garrett said.
Akinsanya tries to stop the cycle of violence in African American families by focusing on parenting. She conducts what she calls a bootcamp for parents called Project Murua - which means 'respect' in Swahili.
"And in our program the whole point is that all children are our children. So it's to create a sense of community," Akinsanya said. "So when people feel connected, they're going to treat each other like they are a part of them. And they're not going to dishonor or hurt them."
Akinsanya says the values she emphasizes in her program are not just for African American people. So far 20 people have been killed in Minneapolis and the year is not half over yet.
- All Things Considered, 05/28/2010, 5:20 p.m.