On June 6, 28-year-od Todd Lorne Banks Jr. was shot and killed on a downtown Rochester sidewalk. The death served as a call to action for the newly formed Community Engagement Response Team.

Led by Pastor Andre Crockett of Barbershop & Social Services and William "Bud" Whitehorn , recently named a community liaison, the plan is to use the group members' influence to deal with problems on the street. Banks' death spurred CERT to "turn up the intensity" of its efforts.

On June 11, about a half dozen CERT volunteers in red shirts met downtown to patrol the streets. In addition to talking with people, the group also stepped in to stop fights before they had a chance to start.

"We do much more than just patrolling the streets," Crockett told Post Bulletin reporter Emily Cutts. "We believe in intervention before things happen. Our ultimate goal is to make those hot pockets within our community a safe place for all."

Initial results have been positive, but there is more to be done. And the question of whether CERT can sustain its effort with an all-volunteer membership remains to be answered. Whitehorn is hopeful the group can get funding that would allow a stipend for members, and is asking the community for financial support to help purchase supplies, such as water bottles and all-weather apparel.

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Beyond the street, the group plans on doing mediation and building relationships with downtown businesses.

The group has an immense challenge and lofty goals. They deserve the support of a caring and compassionate community.

You can help

To volunteer or donate, email info@barbershopss.com, visit Facebook.com/barbershoptalksouthmn or call 507-269-0525