The City of Minneapolis is sending new outreach workers onto the streets in an effort to curb violence more holistically.
The city announced the new pilot program, called the MinneapolUS Strategic Outreach Initiative, on Tuesday. An initiative from the city’s Office of Violence Prevention, the program consists of “violence interrupters” in bright orange shirts.
Interrupters will aim to identify conflicts and de-escalate through mediation and conflict resolution strategies. The program also embraces a public health approach to violence prevention, so interrupters might connect individuals with mental health resources or chemical dependency services.
Interrupters will be people already familiar with the communities they serve and the impact of violence in those areas.
“By investing in our MinneapolUS violence interrupters team, we’re investing in trusted partnerships and data-driven, public health-based responses,” said Mayor Jacob Frey in a statement.
“It’s on all of us to step up and think differently about public safety, and this initiative marks another direct approach to preventing and disrupting the spread of violence within our Office of Violence Prevention.”
Since the police killing of George Floyd earlier this year, several Minneapolis City Council members have expressed a desire to move away from traditional public safety methods.
A majority of council members supported doing away with part of the City Charter that requires the city fund the Minneapolis Police Department, though that initiative won’t see a public vote this November.
Still, Council member Phillipe Cunningham said the interrupter program is a step in the right direction.
“As we build a safer city together, our city is blessed to have the MinneapolUS violence interrupters as a part of this movement,” Cunningham, chair of the city's Public Health and Safety Committee, said in a statement.
“They are deeply respected and bring the incredibly rare skill of influencing those shooting the guns to put those guns down and make different choices. It’s powerful to see how many people clap and shout ‘Thank you!’ to them while they are out on the streets on the Northside.”
According to the Star Tribune, the program will be funded by $1.1 million taken from the police department's budget.