Hamline News

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Partners in crime prevention

Professors collaborate with Little Earth community and City of Minneapolis on grant to reduce crime.

 By Gail Nosek and Julie Carroll 

A new grant from the U.S. Department of Justice through the Bureau of Justice Assistance will provide funds to implement crime reduction strategies in a unique Minneapolis neighborhood identified as a hotspot for crime.

The $846,000 will build on a previously established collaboration between the Little Earth community, Hamline University, and the City of Minneapolis.

Based on prior research that identified major drivers of crime in the Little Earth housing complex, the grant will implement focused crime reduction strategies, take advantage of opportunities to build more trust with law enforcement, and strengthen the community through better partnerships with the city.

Little Earth was founded in 1973 to create affordable housing in South Minneapolis. It was the first urban housing complex with Native American preference. Around 650 residents are listed as tenants of the Section 8 housing, but the actual population, which includes many extended family members who come and go, is probably much higher, said Hamline criminology professor Sarah Greenman, who is working on the grant.

Because the cultural and socioeconomic realities of the neighborhood are unique in the city, strategies that differ from those in other urban areas are required. Proposed solutions will take into account issues of crime, chemical dependency, childhood exposure to violence, domestic violence, prostitution, gang involvement, trespassing, cultural approaches to conflict and resolution, and the need for an enhanced community space to serve as the center point of these efforts.

“Hamline’s work with Little Earth started in October of 2015 with a Byrne Grant that enabled us to analyze crime and other data but also forge relationships and have meaningful discussions about what would best serve this community,” said Hamline criminology professor Shelly Schaefer, who is the principal investigator.

The research team spent two summers at Little Earth analyzing data collected from the community, the police, and their own efforts. Then-student researcher Lucjan Januszewski ’17 coded the data, conducted literature reviews, and attended community and police meetings. He said it taught him some important lessons that will help him as he trains to become a U.S. Capitol police officer.

“The most important thing I think [the Little Earth project] did relating to my current work is to see perspectives on policing and life in general from those who are often marginalized and feel oppressed by law enforcement,” Januszewski said. “As an officer, I will work to treat all people with an equal amount of dignity and respect and will work to build rapport with these members of the community. …”

Jolene Jones, interim president/CEO of the Little Earth Residents Association, said she looks forward to partnering with Hamline University once more as the team implements recommendations from the initial grant.

“This process has given us the opportunity to engage with our community in new and meaningful ways in order to find solutions that are most aligned with the needs of our residents,” she said. “We’re excited to see the recommendations become a reality and the positive impacts to our community.”

Over the next two years, the team has proposed funding for improvements to Little Earth’s community center to provide space for new youth activities; programs for those with chemical dependency issues; and the Peacemaker Program, which draws on Native traditions to resolve conflict. A grant coordinator and program staff, including Little Earth community members, will be hired to assist the Little Earth of United Tribes community. The City of Minneapolis Attorney’s Office and the Minneapolis Police Department also serve as cross-sector partners and will work with both Hamline University and Little Earth during the implementation process.

“With the support of the Byrne Grant, Little Earth residents have done groundbreaking community-led research to develop a plan for a future where their neighbors are safe and empowered to lead,” said Minneapolis Council member Alondra Cano. “I had no doubt that their work would be recognized and that they would win this competitive implementation grant. My thanks to the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office and Hamline University, but above all this victory belongs to the people
of Little Earth.”

The Community Based Crime Reduction (CBCR) grant is part of a large network of federal, place-based, and neighborhood revitalization efforts that support local and tribal communities. The program is community-centered and awarded to groups with the goal of improving safety with policies tailored to different neighborhoods.