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Twin Cities Among Metro Areas Included In Biden Plan To Curb Violent Crime

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/CBS News) -- President Biden unveiled a new initiative aimed at curbing violent crime nationwide Wednesday. Minneapolis and St. Paul together are one of 15 metro areas that are included in the Community Violence Intervention initiative.

"Our country is experiencing an epidemic of gun violence, and Minneapolis isn't immune to it. My proposal for the first wave of federal Rescue Plan funding features a strong commitment to violence prevention and intervention work in addition to resources for law enforcement," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said. "The strategies that we are advancing here in Minneapolis are aligned with President Biden's collaborative Community Violence Intervention initiative, and we're grateful for the White House's commitment to working directly with local governments to curb gun violence."

The money will be used to increase efforts in community violence intervention programs. The initiative also includes a multi-pronged approach to curbing gun violence.

"Making sure that people have job training, making sure that kids have programs to fill the gap when they are not in school, making sure that people who are leaving the criminal justice system as formerly incarcerated people have job training," Deputy White House Press Secretary Chris Meagher said.

Under the administration's plan, the Justice Department is announcing a new "zero tolerance" policy for gun dealers who violate federal law. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will aim to revoke licenses for dealers if they transfer a firearm to a prohibited person, fail to run a background check, refuse to permit ATF to conduct an inspection or falsify records.

The Justice Department will also launch five new law enforcement strike forces aimed at addressing firearms trafficking guns in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and California's Bay Area. Those strike forces will launch in the next 30 days.

According to a fact sheet provided by White House officials, homicides rose 30% in 2020 and gun violence in large cities rose by 8%. The White House points out that while violent crime and gun violence is rising, it still remains lower than it was a decade ago.

From Buffalo to Minneapolis, the nation's growing gun violence problem is evident here at home.

In Minneapolis, 288 people have been shot so far this year -- nearly 100 more than this time last year.

In St. Paul, while murders are down, shots fired are up 14% (929 in 2020 and 1056 in 2021 from Jan. 1 to end of May) and shootings are up 33% (67 in 2020 and 89 in 2021 from Jan. 1 to end of May).

The Biden administration's new five-part plan to face the issue includes investing in evidence-based community violence intervention programs that work directly with people to prevent gun violence.

Dora Jones-Robinson is the executive director of Guns Down St. Paul and Mentoring Young Adults.

"I've been boots on the ground around gun violence for the last four years," said Jones-Robinson. "It's really a condensed, complex situation so we have to peel it back."

The plan also aims to slow the flow of firearms used for crimes, increasing accountability for dealers.

"At this point they're poised to do more for gun safety than a lot of administrations in the past, so we're really excited," said Jessica Deweerth, state chapter co-lead for Moms Demand Action in Minnesota. "They are prepared to address gun trafficking in a way that hasn't been done before to enforce the existing laws to stop bad actors."

The plan will also help formerly incarcerated people reenter their communities and provide support for local law enforcement with funding for things like hiring and prevention programs. Additionally, it will expand summer programming and employment opportunities for teens and young adults.

"Right now young people don't think they're going to make it past 22, 21," said Jones-Robinson, speaking of the young people she encounters doing her outreach work. "That's where we have to change the mindset, the way they think about themselves and about others that they live around."

"We know that community-based groups doing intervention on the ground is an evidence-based way to stop gun violence before it starts," said Deweeth. "We hope that the momentum continues."

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