Standing before “Phoenix Rising,” a statue made from melted-down guns, law-enforcement leaders set out an initiative to battle the violence that has taken 29 lives in Minneapolis this year — far eclipsing the total for all of 2009, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The plan is to prosecute more cases of illegal gun possession in federal court, where sentences often are longer and often without parole.
As officials laid out Project Minneapolis Exile at a news conference yesterday, mothers of slain young men held each other, sobbing. They were dressed in red, to signify the blood that has been shed and that binds them together. “We’re not in full-on crisis mode, but we’re heading in the wrong direction,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan. “Let’s change that direction.” Project Exile, a program that has been successful elsewhere, will focus on convicted felons in possession of firearms, who officials say are responsible for the dramatic uptick in homicides. The city had 19 killings in 2009, a 27-year low. With more vigorous prosecution, the officials argue, gun offenders not only will be put away longer, but they’ll think twice before arming themselves on the streets. “We’re going to be smart about who we’re bringing into the federal system. It’s not going to be willy-nilly scooping up any youngster who’s making a mistake,” said U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones. “But we all know there’s some hard-core folks out there that really, quite frankly, don’t care about public safety in our community. And they are the folks, the worst of the worst, the people who know and don’t care.”