Brooklyn Park’s Community Safety Intervention Team – a model of violence intervention that is showing success

I attended the Summit on Loss, Violence, and Education (SOLVE) forum in Brooklyn Park last evening and came away more hopeful for our public safety future than when I arrived. In today’s environment that isn’t always the case.

The forum was hosted by the nonprofit Minnesota Acts Now (MAN) and was held in the Ebenezer Community Church which serves a congregation of people originating from over 10 nations. The audience was diverse in race, ethnicity, gender, faith, and professions, but it was clear they were alike in their desire for public safety. 

The group of panelists included 3 police chiefs, the Minnesota Attorney General, the US Attorney for the District of Minnesota, the Minnesota Assistant Commissioner of Public Safety, the Hennepin County Attorney, a County Commissioner, and the Mayors of Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center, and a prominent activist.

In an event filled with talking points, data, and opinions, one topic stood out above the rest: The success of the MAN’s Community Safety Intervention Team which has been in operation in Brooklyn Park since 2021.    

Brooklyn Park Interim Police Chief Mark Bruley, Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Lunde, and MAN President Bishop Harding Smith, spoke about the successful decrease in violent crime since the inception of the Community Safety Intervention Team. The team of community members has been working since August 2021 by deploying in groups of about 6 to “hot spots” for violent crime. They fill 8 hr shifts, and deploy 7 days a week, every week.  They wear recognizable orange shirts and are known as the “people in orange.” They greet and engage business owners and citizens in these hot spots. They call out anyone who is displaying troubling behavior, and their efforts are paying off according to the officials. Violent crime in two of the areas the group has deployed to has been virtually eliminated and calls for police service have gone from daily shootings and other violent crime to far less severe calls such as vehicle lock-outs and minor complaints. 

According to Brooklyn Park Police Inspector Bill Barritt, the day-to-day police contact with MAN, the team has achieved “astounding success” in each area they have been deployed to. 

The team was formed in August 2021 when the Brooklyn Park Police Department and Bishop Harding Smith brough a proposal to the County Board for startup funding. The County Board agreed to fund the pilot program in Brooklyn Park through the end of 2021. After reviewing the success of the program, the City of Brooklyn Park agreed to use $1.2 million in American Recovery Plan (ARP) monies to fund the program through 2022.  

In August 2021 the team began deploying to the intersection of Brookdale Drive and Yates Ave. In October 2021 they expanded to the intersection of 63rd and Zane. In April 2022 they expanded to the Huntington Place Apartment complex. Through their sustained presence, outreach, and intervention the group has had a profound impact in eliminating incidents of violent crime in the first two hot spots. Each had been the site of frequent shootings and other violence in recent years.  These incidents have literally been eliminated. The Huntington Place Apartment detail has proven to be a far more significant undertaking than the other hotspots. Inspector Barritt is confident that a sustained effort, and perhaps more MAN personnel, will result in success similar to the other hotspots.

Inspector Barritt has found since the deployment of the MAN teams his officers are freed up for calls in other underserved areas of the city. In addition, the crimes that have been eliminated in the hot spots have not been displaced to other areas in the city.

The Brooklyn Park MAN team operates independent of other “violence interrupter” teams that are in existence. A team of violence interrupters in Minneapolis has come under scrutiny due to a lack of transparency and reporting of activities. In fairness, the scale of issues facing teams trying to make an impact in Minneapolis is far larger than in Brooklyn Park and elsewhere. More time, and certainly more transparency and accountability are needed to accurately judge the effectiveness of the Minneapolis program.

Inspector Barritt stated that the program is “unequivocally” the most successful community/police partnership he has been associated with during his career. He attributes the success of the Team to the efforts of Bishop Harding Smith, and the relationship that has been created between the team and the police department.

Funding for Minnesota Act Now, Community Safety Intervention Team is unclear past 2022, but given the experience of the Brooklyn Park Police Department, it appears to be a model worth maintaining and replicating.