St. Paul police join outreach effort to prevent refugees from getting caught up in crime

The St. Paul Police Department is working to curb crime in a new way by reaching out to young people in the Karen and Karenni communities.

Some of the newest refugees to Minnesota, the Karen and Karennis come from Myanmar and there are about 20,000 in the state, making it the largest population in the country. But moving to a new country is challenging and some of the younger population is turning to crime.

"Very young, I think we’ve seen youth from 13, 14, 15 years old," explained Kaziah Josiah.

Estrada with St. Paul police and Kaziah Josiah, a younger member of the Asian Outreach Program and a Karen herself, teamed up and got to work coming up with a plan to break the cycle.

"We realized there have been a lot of youth that are involved in gang or violent incidents in St. Paul," added Josiah. "Whenever these youth got caught up in the correction system, after getting out there was literally nowhere to send them to. So they would get back to the cycle of going back to the corrections system again."

There is already some Karen and Karenni outreach in place but they don't really have the advanced training necessary.

"There’s some advanced training that they may not have," explained Estrada. "They may not have relationships with our court system, with our judges, with our probation officers so some of this training for the mentors is to give them this advanced training."

The program is just getting underway, Chacho is training the mentors and Kaziah is mentoring the mentors. The goal is to keep the young Karens out of the system but if they do get caught they’ll work to make it stop -- something many community members feel is overdue.

"Former felon was in jail for like ten-something years and he sat there and had a smile on his face that people were coming up with a plan to help people like him."

If you want to help fund the program, you can click here or call Cha-Cho Estrada (612-282-5951) or Kaziah Josiah (651-417-5824) for more information on the program.