ST PAUL, Minn. — Saint Paul leaders are getting a boost from Uncle Sam in the city's efforts to turn back the tide of gun violence that has plagued the area and much of the nation's cities.
Mayor Melvin Carter, flanked by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, announced Friday that $10 million dollars of federal American Rescue Plan funds will be used to accelerate crime prevention work.
The strategy, known as Project Peace, acknowledges that policing must be augmented by community-based efforts that intervene directly in the lives of youth who are in crisis and at risk of being drawn into gun violence.
"We've said for 100 years we know that our police officers can't do this work by themselves. This is about saying you don't have to," Mayor Carter told reporters who gathered outside the Frogtown Community Center.
"Our approach the neighborhood safety is not either-or. It has to be both-and."
The largest chunk of the money, $4 million, will go to the recently created St. Paul Office of Neighborhood Safety, headed by Brooke Blakey. She said the office will issue grants to organizations that give individualized wraparound support to youth tailored to what they need.
"Some will need mentorships – working with our Healing Streets, our African American Leadership Council, our Black Ministerial Alliance to support not only the individual but their family and associates and meeting them with specific support they need at that moment," Blakey explained.
"It might be something as simple as a gas card to get you to treatment. It might be something very global of actually being in treatment, or leverage work with police officers that have established relationships with youth."
Other parts of the package include:
- $2 million in matching funds to hire 30 more officers through the federal COPS program
- $1.5 million to improve security at city libraries
- $1.5 million to enhance recreational opportunities at city parks
- $1 million for traffic and pedestrian safety improvements
"The Saint Paul Police Department is proud to be one of many partners working to address gun violence in our city," Acting Police Chief Jeremy Ellison explained.
"This project builds on the work and efforts that the women and men of the Saint Paul Police Department are doing everyday."
Sen. Klobuchar noted that the location for the news conference was appropriate because the Frogtown Community Center includes play structures for neighborhood children.
"Because it sends this strong message that you’ve got to do two things at once. You’ve got to bolster the police, but you’ve also got to bolster crime prevention and being there for these kids at the front end."
Senator Smith complimented the mayor and his staff for their comprehensive approach to solving the crime problem and making the neighborhood safer.
"It's born out of the idea that gun violence is a public health epidemic, and we need to take a holistic and collaborative approach rooted in community," Sen. Smith remarked.
"And it will work directly with folks who are most at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system and most in danger of being harmed by gunshots."