U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, as well as representatives from the municipal police and public safety, stood beside St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter as he presented a comprehensive $10 million initiative to reduce violent crime in the city on Friday.
The strategies combine new and ongoing outreach programs under the city’s new Office of Neighborhood Safety, which is headed by former Metro Transit Police Officer Brooke Blakey, with initiatives from the St. Paul Police Department, St. Paul Parks and Recreation, and other important players. The strategies are supported in part by funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
These initiatives, some of which the St. Paul City Council has yet to approve for funding, include hiring more police officers, awarding $4 million in grants to fund community-led public safety initiatives, traffic calming, and an external assessment of the needs for public safety in the St. Paul Public Library system.
The former Hennepin County Attorney, Amy Klobuchar, stated that “so much of this is a concerted strategy.” “St. Paul understands,”
Among the projects that are ready to go live is “Project Peace,” which aims to lessen revenge for street crime by providing those affected by gun violence with mental health treatment and other all-encompassing intervention services.
Developed over many months, the initiative, according to Carter, would be overseen by social service providers and partners from the community and will center on “direct, prolonged, and persistent involvement with a limited number of group-involved individuals.”
In order to focus on prevention and early intervention services, St. Paul Police created an internal team. Eight recent openings attracted 35 internal applicants, which is roughly three times the average for special assignments, according to St. Paul Police Commander Axel Henry, one of three commanders in charge of the team.
Interim St. Paul Police Chief Jeremy Ellison, who was present at the mayor’s media appearance at the Frogtown Community Center off Como Avenue, stated that “the last letter in the alphabet ‘Peace’ stands for enforcement.” It has a clear and deliberate function, and it’s at the conclusion of the acronym.
Project Peace rolls out in tandem with U.S. President Joe Biden’s Community Violence Interventions Collaborative, which covers 15 jurisdictions throughout the country using ARPA monies to prevent gun violence.
Following the press conference, Blakey gave a brief interview, saying, “It truly is about folks who could be victims of violence or prospective perpetrators of violence.” A family might be involved. A 14-year-old son may make the opening remarks. It can be aiding mom with her mental health or assisting dad with getting his driver’s license.
Additionally, the city will employ a grants coordinator to operate under Blakey and allocate $4 million in financing to neighborhood safety programs rooted in local communities, with the assistance of a 15-member Office of Neighborhood Safety Community Council in choosing grant applicants. Beyond her own position, according to Blakey, her team consists of an administrative assistant and a staff member for the community council.
A significant percentage of the 80 new officers expected across two police academies this year, the $3.75 million “Community Oriented Policing Services” award from the U.S. Department of Justice will be used to employ up to 30 more St. Paul Police officers, the mayor said in March.
The city will contribute $2 million to the $10 million project, which was announced on Friday, in order to match the federal COPS award.
The mayor’s office’s written documents also include the following important expenditures:
Optimal Library Response With the aim of developing a public services safety strategy for the libraries, the St. Paul Public Library system will spend $1.5 million adding a new staff position — safety experts — and funding an external study and assessment of safety resources. Improved “community-care and trauma-sensitive approach to helping juvenile and adult library users” is one of the objectives.
The city will use cash from the American Rescue Plan Act to increase young people’s access to recreation centers and will also provide intervention programs to help young people develop social and emotional skills. Parks and Recreation Expansion, $1.5 Million
$1 million will be allocated to six components of the Comprehensive Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Plan, including a citywide crash study, temporary safety measures at key intersections on busy arterial and collector roads, a review of traffic engineering guidelines that adhere to best practices, and a campaign to reduce speeding. Additionally, funds will be used to update the city’s pavement marking device for lengthy lines and to create a “secondary notification” system that would allow police to notify owners of cars with equipment violations that do not immediately jeopardize public safety.
Jane Prince, a member of the St. Paul City Council and head of the city’s library board, has voiced her worry over understaffing at libraries.
“I’m happy we accepted the entire COPS award. It was extremely necessary, Prince added. “As the chair of the library board, I’m pleased to see that some money has been set aside to further investigate (library safety). We should, in my opinion, move more quickly in that regard. They have to deal with horrific things, like people hurling chairs and carrying knives.