ST PAUL, Minn. — St. Paul Police and city leaders laid out plans on Thursday to improve safety in the busy West Seventh corridor, where a mass shooting at Seventh Street Truck Park last weekend left one person dead and 14 others injured.
During an hour-long Zoom discussion with the area's district council, known as the West Seventh Street/Fort Road Federation, both SPPD Commander Jeremy Ellison and Ward 2 Council Member Rebecca Noecker answered questions from concerned neighbors and business owners.
For example, Brian Ingram, who owns Hope Breakfast Bar down the street, said he's experiencing more crime than ever before and "never had a gun pulled on me until this last year." Although the city and police department say that overall crime has fallen, violent crime has seen a noticeable increase, with homicides and gunshot victims up at least 20% compared to the same time last year.
"What are you guys going to today -- not tomorrow, not a month from now, not two months from now -- what are you going to do today," Ingram said to the city, "to protect us?"
For starters, Commander Ellison said that St. Paul Police have authorized more overtime for officers, so that they can patrol West Seventh deeper into the night and early morning hours.
"Typically, we were only out there walking the beat until about 7 o'clock. But, based on the incident as well as some other factors, we are going to be -- at least on the weekend nights -- we'll be there until 2 in the morning walking the beat," Ellison said.
Many neighbors also expressed concerns about the location of the homeless shelter Freedom House, although as Council Member Noecker pointed out, there is no connection between that shelter and last weekend's mass shooting.
However, Noecker did say that the city is using federal American Rescue Plan funding to deploy a Rapid Response Team for people in crisis across the city, including West Seventh.
"A rapid response team that is specially trained to do that, is really better suited," Noecker said, "and can free up our officers to handle other criminal calls."
To help the police department reach its full authorized strength, Noecker also said she's exploring the idea of a second police academy during budget negotiations this fall.
Noecker said she's also had discussions with representatives from both EcoLab and Securian Financial, which sent letters expressing their concerns about crime in St. Paul.
"I think that the key here is to engage them in conversations and solutions," Noecker said. "I think both of these leaders are very committed to downtown St. Paul. That's why they sent those letters."