MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As the temperature began to rise this summer, so too did a violent combination of robberies and car thefts commonly known as "carjackings."
In early August, three suspects -- ages 12 and 13 years old -- were arrested following a chase from St. Paul to north Minneapolis in a stolen car.
In September, teenagers again were arrested after crashing a carjacked BMW in a north side alley and hiding out in a house.
Then Monday morning, three boys no older than 16 years old died after crashing in a car near that police say was carjacked a day earlier.
Minneapolis police typically label the crimes as auto thefts or robberies in their reports, but a spokesman tells WCCO carjackings have happened so much this year that they'll now categorize them as a "carjacking" in their reports to better track them.
Police added that the average age of the suspects in these crimes appears to be dropping.
Korey Dean is the founder of The Man Up Club, a nonprofit mentorship program targeting young African Americans ages 12 to 24 in the Twin Cities. Dean's aims is to keep them on the right path, and away from a life of crime.
"For me, what it says is that we have to start getting to these kids younger," Dean said.
He says the carjackings this year are partly due to at-risk kids seeing an opportunity with a police force that's undermanned, and in the midst of a defunding debate.
"And then you find these trends that take place as far as different things to get into. You know, it might be gunplay one minute, it might be property damage the next minute, and then it might be carjacking the next minute," Dean said.
He adds that the unrest in Minneapolis created a disconnect between leadership -- the city council, mayor's office, police -- and the community.
"I think it kind of gives [teenagers] permission to push the envelope on different things, whether it's just their own behavior, wanting to be mischievous or wanting to be deviant, of if it's just out of curiosity to see if the system really works, or if it's just out of sheer boredom and not enough programs to keep them engaged," he said.
Monday afternoon, the father of the one of teenagers killed in the early morning crash said his son was a good kid who wasn't involved in carjacking. He then blamed a lack of programs as one reason kids are caught up in these situations.
"If our kids had community centers, rec centers and stuff like that, go to the skating rinks, stuff that I had growing up, it wouldn't be like this," the victim's father said.
Dean understands that concern. Through weekly meetings with mentors, as well as field trips beyond the kids' neighborhoods, The Man Up Club seeks to be a constant positive influence that keeps youth engaged in activities.
"There has to be an influx of resources. There has to be human capital of people who are coming in to spend time with these kids and not just brushing them off," Dean said. "You can't cut budgets and look at things for kids as an afterthought or what have you because then you have things like this."
Dean's advice to parents is to reach out to organizations like his or other adults they can trust to help raise their kids. He says parents shouldn't feel intimidated or inadequate for seeking help.
"I still believe in that it takes a village to raise a child," Dean said.
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