St. Paul's mayor proposes $1.7M to curb violence without adding police officers

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A man stands and speaks into microphones.
Mayor Melvin Carter addresses the St. Paul City Council inside of city hall in St. Paul, Minn., on Wednesday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Mayor Melvin Carter proposes to spend $1.7 million to curb violence in St. Paul that has claimed 30 lives so far this year.

At a regular meeting of the St. Paul City Council Wednesday, Carter called his proposal a community-first approach, one he says that does not include more police officer positions.

Carter asked the seven council members to approve his supplemental proposal as is. It includes a 1 percent increase to his current property tax levy proposal.

People sit on benches and watch a man speak.
Community members and city officials listen to St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter address city council inside of City Hall in St. Paul, Minn., on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The plan promises improvements to streets, community spaces, and youth social services. The money is supposed to improve police response times to the most critical crimes in progress.

Around $170 million of the city’s more than $700 million total budget goes to public safety.

Carter repeated a message hundreds of St. Paul residents have heard from him during three separate community meetings this month.

“We need a fundamentally new approach, even with a strong police department that leads locally and nationally on so many fronts, we cannot expect our police officers alone to solve all of our problems,” Carter said.

Carter has proposed cutting a handful of officer positions in the 2020 budget. The mayor says the overall sworn officer strength of the department is at an all-time high, but east side council member Jane Prince said that doesn’t account for attrition.

“The problem is the lowest level of staffing happens in the summer when the police are the busiest,” Prince said.

Council member Dai Thao, who represents the North End and Frogtown, pressed the mayor about why he wouldn’t consider gunshot sensor technology, sometimes known as ShotSpotter, despite a state grant that would help pay for it.

A man looks at another standing at a podium.
St. Paul City Council member Dai Thao asks a question of Mayor Melvin Carter inside of city hall on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019.
Evan Frost | MPR News

“The city of St. Paul we want this to be a destination a place where people feel safe to do business to spend their money here, to build this city together,” Thao said.

Carter countered that he’s not seen evidence the technology helps prevent gun violence.

“Buying technological toys because someone told us or emailed us that it’s an effective way to prevent gun violence in our community is not enough,” Carter said.

Council members must finalize the 2020 budget by the end of the year.