MINNEAPOLIS — Bishop Richard Howell refuses to dwell on the negative.
Howell, the senior pastor at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in north Minneapolis, knows the toll of gun violence more intimately than most, having done hundreds of funerals for victims in his four decades at the church. This summer, though, he's noticing signs of progress on the streets compared to last year, when the city nearly set a record for homicide totals.
"I have to say, I'm more optimistic about what's happening now, due to the fact that some of the violence has decreased in our community this summer," Howell said. "I do believe if we continue to keep boots on the ground, and continue to reach out to one another, I think we can bring some hope into this community."
Although the city recorded its 58th homicide of the year this weekend at George Floyd Square, that number has dropped by about 15 percent compared to the same time in 2021. Shots fired calls and gunshot wound victims have decreased by about 10 percent in the same time frame, according to Minneapolis Police data.
Additionally, Minneapolis Police released figures this month that claim to show a decrease in gun violence in areas where they've added "focused enforcement details." The department reported to the city council last week that it employed these details 12 times between May 11 and July 27, in order to "disrupt criminal activity by deploying an overwhelming show of force in terms of personnel."
Crime analysts told council members that gun violence figures in north Minneapolis dropped in neighborhoods like Penn and Golden Valley Road (-55 percent), Lowry and Knox (-37 percent), Broadway Avenue (-26 percent), and 36th and Penn (-16 percent). In south Minneapolis, the department reported drops in violent activity in areas of Hennepin Avenue (-35 percent), Loring Park (15 percent), Northeast Whittier (-48 percent), and Franklin and Chicago Avenues (-75 percent).
It remains true, however, that carjackings, motor vehicle thefts, domestic aggravated assaults and other serious crimes have continued to soar in 2022. Carjackings, in particular, are up more than 22 percent compared to this time last year and 257 percent compared to 2019. Also, homicides and shots fired calls are still substantially higher than the rate during that final pre-pandemic year of 2019.
The emergence of more fully automatic gunfire has also concerned both police and community groups, particularly with the online accessibility of devices known as "switches," which can turn handguns into fully automatic weapons that fire much more rapidly.
"No question about it," Bishop Howell said. "More powerful."
But on the streets, faith leaders like Howell say they're carrying forward some momentum in 2022, building off the introduction of the "21 Days of Peace" campaign that launched last May.
"I do believe there's enough subliminal messaging that it's not worth the rest of your life behind bars for killing someone," Howell said.
Howell remains committed to tackling some of the major contributors to gun violence, including drug and fentanyl use, homelessness, mental health, and gang activity.
"These are young people that just need love. Young people that just need to be heard," Bishop Howell said. "We should not be afraid of them, but we should be able to reach out to them."
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