Blocking The Crime Wave

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Weekdays, when most Minneapolis school children are preparing for school, Sgt. Ron Stenerson leads a team of police officers, sheriff deputies and a parole officer. It's a hard line approach: looking for juvenile delinquents - kids with outstanding arrest warrants or long absences from school.

Police arrested a 12-year-old, and said: "young man, you got a warrant for your arrest. You're under arrest."

At this house, police arrested another 12-year old boy, CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts reported.

What's the story on this kid?

"Twelve years old. This relates to an assault in school," the officer said.

It was near 9-o'clock a.m. there. Shouldn't he be in school?

"One would think so," the officer said.

Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan says that going after the youngest of offenders has helped turn around the city's crime rate.

Last year, violent crime and murder were up. What's happened in the past year?

"When you looked at who was committing violent crimes in the city of Minneapolis, it was juveniles that were disproportionate," Dolan said. "They were over 50 percent."

This new approach in Minneapolis has become a model for the nation. Police officers keeping track of troubled kids before they become hardened criminals.

Last year, homicides in Minneapolis rose more than 20 percent, according to the Police Executive Research Forum.

And it's a trend seen nationwide. Cities where homicide was once rising, are now seeing their numbers drop: cities like Sacramento (37 percent), Houston (14 percent) and Cincinnati (21 percent).

"Prevention is the key word for police," law enforcement expert Chuck Wexler said. "If they can prevent something from happening, there's one less offender, there's one less victim and there's one kid who might make it."

Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, calls it a return to good policing. Combining hard-line approaches like arrest, with softer focuses on keeping kids in school and off the street.

Is it fair to police officers, though, to be a social worker - a guidance counselor?

"Some cops might want to be Dirty Harry, and some cops might want to be Mother Teresa. In the final analysis, they've got to be a little bit of both," Wexler said.

For Sgt. Stenerson, it's a fine line he's willing to walk to save a kid now. Or sacrifice another life later.