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Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Midway police, Russ Stark, discuss crime trends with residents

Posted on 05 June 2017 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE
With summer’s start comes the potential for an uptick in crime. More than three dozen Midway area residents met May 24 with Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark and members of the St. Paul Police Department Western District staff to discuss crime trends and ways the public can be proactive in deterring crime.

Stark said he wanted the discussion to focus on safety, to have the Hamline-Midway neighborhood be a safe and welcoming place. Last summer there were issues with violence at Hamline Park Playground, the Snelling-University area, and the Snelling Ave. corridor. Shootings, drug sales, vandalism, theft and other activities raised concerns. Stark said it was a different situation than he has seen in his 18 years of living in the neighborhood.

The meeting provided an overview of what police are doing in the area this summer and was meant to be a discussion of proactive community engagement. But the gathering grew tense at times as it became a debate about police-community relations. Some attendees angrily accused police of racial profiling and raised concerns about police brutality and officer-involved shootings. Some said children and young people are afraid of the police after negative interactions.

But others said they are afraid to call police because of worries about retaliation by criminals. A few people had to be asked to not use their cell phones to record other meeting attendees.

The Police Department breaks the city into three districts—Western, Central, and Eastern. The Western District incorporates the Midway, Como, St. Anthony Park, Front, Frogtown, Merriam Park, Summit University, Grand Ave. neighborhoods, and extends all the way down through the Highland Park neighborhood. In the Western District, there has been a 26 percent increase in weapons discharged, or shots fired calls. Other crime categories have had either small increases or decreases.

Shots fired calls are up citywide, said Western District Senior Commander Steve Anderson. That launched what has become a frequent debate, over whether noises are indeed shots fired or firecrackers. Anderson and other police personnel at the meeting said people need to call in, whether or not they know the source of the noise.

Pam McCreary, who leads community crime prevention efforts, said people need to call in and make reports. “Then you can talk about it on social media,” she said.

Another issue is public intoxication and disorderly conduct. In recent weeks one problem area has been University and Snelling avenues, where a group of people is hanging out. Members of the group, whom Stark has dubbed “the drinking club,” hang out in front of stores. They aggressively panhandle business customers, drink, urinate and defecate in public and cause disruptive behavior.

Tom Stranksy, owner of Midway Bookstore, 1579 University Ave., said he has had customers harassed. It is affecting his business and other businesses.

Anderson grew up in the Midway. He outlined plans for the summer including stepped-up bicycle patrols. People may see the mounted patrol or equine unit from time to time. St. Paul Police have recently had more training in deescalating situations and in community engagement.

Other issues raised include speeding motor vehicles and dangers to pedestrians, motor vehicles with loud stereo systems, and other quality of life issues.

Another part of the meeting focused on curfews. Unaccompanied minors, 15 years of age or under, are not allowed to loiter or play on or in public places from 10pm to 4am daily. Unaccompanied minors over 15 and under 18 are restricted from public places from 12:01am to 4am daily. It is unlawful for parents, guardians or other adults having charge over a minor to allow or permit that minor to violate curfew. To report violations, call the police at 651-291-1111.

The group also discussed law enforcement on the Green Line light rail and A Line bus lines, and how police work with Metro Transit police.

One focus this summer is the Safe Summer Nights Program, which provides positive interaction with police and the community. As part of that program, Hamline Park’s event is 5-7pm on Thur., July 13 in the park at Snelling and Thomas avenues.

One big takeaway from the meeting was that people should call the police when something isn’t right. Get to know neighbors and who should and shouldn’t be in an area, a piece of advice which also prompted some protests. That may be less germane in areas where someone is waiting for a bus or walking to a destination, some at the meeting said.

Another piece of advice is to pay attention to behaviors and not focus simply on what a person looks like. But if there is suspicious behavior, make as thorough a report as possible. Saying someone had on “a white T-shirt and blue jeans” doesn’t give police a lot to go on.

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