Hennepin County Attorney details new youth intervention program

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office has announced a new initiative aimed at juveniles who are on the brink of entering the criminal justice system.

This program is an extension of the existing Group Violence Intervention, now including juveniles who have had encounters with law enforcement but have not yet been formally involved in the system.

The new effort seeks to intervene before young individuals engage in serious criminal activities. According to local authorities, it's common to see young people veering towards the wrong path, and this program is designed to provide assistance before they reach that dead end.

"The support has generally come at the back end of the system after an individual is already involved in the system. We want to change that," said Jen White from the Hennepin Co. Attorney's Office.

The Youth Group Violence Intervention (YGVI) will initially receive referrals from law enforcement. These are cases where there may not be sufficient evidence to prosecute a juvenile, but there is an opportunity for preemptive intervention. Importantly, the program extends support to the juveniles' families as well.

Sgt. Shawn Fricke of the Brooklyn Park Police Department highlighted the benefits of early intervention, noting, "Traditionally, police officers come in contact with these youth repeatedly. And a lot of times, the courts often are lagging behind. The YGVI gives us direct access to get ahead of this and get our community partners involved to get in front of the youth and get intervention services to the youth and their families."

Sasha Cotton from the National Network for Safe Communities emphasized the broader support needs, "We know there are standard needs around housing and educational resources. A lot of the times, parents simply do not have the know-how, the resources, and the skills to go into schools and advocate for what their children need."

Participation in the YGVI is entirely voluntary, and it remains unclear how many kids will be helped by the program.

Muhammad Abdul-Ahad from T.O.U.C.H. Outreach expressed enthusiasm about the program's launch, saying, "I'm just excited to get this going. I'm ready to get to work."

The program is being adopted by police departments in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center, as well as Minneapolis Police. However, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office is not participating, saying they were not invited to join.