The ‘public health approach’ to crime reduction only enriches nonprofits

For several years now, the City of Minneapolis has more and more taken a “public health approach” to fighting crime, relying less on police and law enforcement and more on nonprofit “violence interrupters” and the like.

To coordinate this new approach, the city formed a Neighborhood Safety Office. How effective is it? Unfortunately, the Office hasn’t issued a report on its activities since 2021, when it was still called the Office of Violence Prevention.

Now a local lawyer is suing the city over how they award grants to nonprofits. The Minneapolis Star Tribune published a lengthy article (worth your time) about the lawsuit and the history of the Neighborhood Safety Office.

My colleague David Zimmer gives his take on the controversy here. I’m more interested in who within the nonprofit world is getting this money.

The Star Tribune article doesn’t name any names. The Office’s 2021 report (pages 5-8) lists the recipients of more than $7.5 million in taxpayer funds. Dozens of organizations are listed as having received money, ranging from as little as $1,000 to upwards of $1 million, each.

As I documented earlier, much of the 2021 money went to individuals and private (for-profit) companies. Some of the nonprofits were only recently incorporated and yet received substantial sums in 2021.

For example, one nonprofit first received its tax-exempt status in mid-2020, yet was awarded more than $400,000 in grants in 2021 from the city’s violence prevention program. In separate incidents in 2021, two of the nonprofit’s workers were charged in fights occurring outside of Cub Foods locations.

Another group, founded in 2021, was profiled last August by MPR. There do not appear to have been any tax returns filed for the new group, or its predecessor, since 2020.

You constantly see headlines on how crime is down in Minneapolis:

But the reality in the streets is exactly the opposite. The city’s official Crime Dashboard (updated daily) tracks 11 crime categories. Comparing 2023 year-to-date to last year, crime is up in seven categories. The city does slightly better against the three-year average with only six categories being up and five down.

Mostly, what the media is talking about is homicides. Minneapolis has recorded “only” 63 murders so far in 2023, versus 73 at this point last year, and below the three-year-average of 81.

Auto thefts, on the other hand, are out of control. They are approaching 7,000 year-to-date, thousands above last year and the three-year average.

Assaults are up over last year, so it’s not clear, exactly, what “violence” is being prevented.

Yet, the city adds $millions more to the effort, every year.