MINNEAPOLIS — In 2021, the city of St. Paul set a record for murders, while neighboring Minneapolis nearly matched one.
Unfortunately, the first few months of 2022 have brought another wave of violence, with both cities already outpacing last year's totals.
In St. Paul, police recorded an eighth homicide on Monday after a shooting outside of a funeral home, while Minneapolis reached that number last week. In fact, earlier this month, three people were killed within blocks of each other in the North Minneapolis neighborhood of Willard-Hay on back-to-back days, including North High student Deshaun Hill.
"It's interconnected. There's people in St. Paul that are killed here, and people in Minneapolis that are killed in St. Paul," said Pastor Jerry McAfee, the founder of a 21 Days of Peace campaign that operates in both cities as well as Brooklyn Park. "The traumatic experience continues to move, day by day, month by month."
That was the backdrop for Monday evening's "Take Back Our Streets" event, hosted by the Harold Mezile North Community YMCA - located just down the road from where Hill was shot on Feb. 9. McAfee sat on a panel as one of the featured speakers, along with several other community leaders in front of a large crowd in the gymnasium.
DeAnna Perkins, the executive director of the North Community YMCA, said she hopes the public forum will spur discussion about practical solutions to end the violence. She specifically pointed out a need for more investments in youth programs.
"I think it's one person at a time, one family at a time, one day at a time," Perkins said. "I think there's a real need for healing, a real need for wellness, and just meeting people where they're at."
Charlie Adams, the 4th Precinct Inspector for the Minneapolis Police Department, also addressed the crowd at the public forum while in uniform. Calling for even greater collaboration with community groups, he explained how continued staffing challenges have plagued the department over the past few years, leaving current officers to focus on 911 calls with less time to spend on community engagement initiatives.
The total number of patrol officers on the streets, Adams said, has dropped from a high of 600 to now just 284.
"We are losing one every day. We just lost two last week. All right? I can't police North Side with that low number," Adams said. "But I can't keep saying we can't do anything either."
In the absence of more officers, Adams said the ATF and BCA have provided some needed help on investigations, and he praised the work of community groups on the streets. According to Adams, faith-led groups have helped deter crime in the intersections where they've shown a presence, leading him to call for another large event at Broadway and Lyndale in North Minneapolis.
Adams called that intersection "the monster."
"I want every service that we can put out there," Adams said.
Many of those groups were represented at the public forum on Monday night, including Minnesota Safe Streets, 21 Days of Peace, We Push for Peace, A Mother's Love, God Squad, 8218 Truce Center, and others.
Since he founded 21 Days of Peace last May, Pastor Jerry McAfee's campaign has expanded to cover Minneapolis, St. Paul and Brooklyn Park. His team also launched a mobile unit, complete with information on job training and resume-building.
"These behavioral patterns are not acceptable. [We need to] start addressing those issues. If it's poverty, let's deal with it. If it's out-of-home placement, let's deal with it," McAfee said. "But to ignore it? We can't do that."