By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The city of Minneapolis is sending members of the community into the streets to prevent violence that is plaguing the city.

They are called the Violence Interrupters, and they’re tasked with stopping shootings by mediating conflicts in the community, and following up with individuals to decrease retaliatory violence.

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Jamil Jackson and his group of interrupters are on the move.

“Our mantra is engage, relationships, resources,” Jackson said. “We’re teachers, we’re business owners, we’re city employees, we’re park employees, we’re just individuals who came to the call and had a desire to come out here and change.”

Their bright-orange shirts stand out, so they can walk in and use their relationships within the community to stop the shootings before they happen.

“Some men lived the street life, lived the gang life if you will, and so they have relationships in that way,” Jackson said. “Some of us have been coaches, some of us are, you know, a father, uncles, cousins, right? So the beauty in it is everywhere we go, someone in our group knows, you know, someone out there, so that’s our way in.”

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Sasha Cotton, director of the city’s Office of Violence Prevention, says the Interrupters will walk neighborhoods in south and north Minneapolis.

“Everything that the OVP, Office of Violence Prevention is doing is rooted in looking at scientific method and evidence-based research to develop plans that have been shown to work in other places, and then innovating it to add the Minneapolis spin,” Cotton said.

The hope is to eventually add teams in downtown Minneapolis and the Uptown area, according to Ward 4 City Council Representative Phillipe Cunningham.

“The intention is for this to actually stop the violence, stop the guns from being shot so that the police don’t even have to show up in the first place,” Cunningham said.

The interrupters hope to eliminate some of the barriers that are creating the desire to commit crimes, so police are less likely to get involved.

“We want to know the patterns of crime, we want to know the areas that they need support in so that we can go there and do some preventive maintenance,” Jackson said.

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The interrupters initiative is not part of current “defunding police” proposals. It is a 2019 city plan that is funded through the 2020 police budget.

Reg Chapman