St. Paul leaders announce new public safety initiatives

A group of people stand at a podium
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter (at podium), joined by U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, and other city and community officials, unveiled a plan Friday to use federal money to try to address root causes of crime and violence in the city. He spoke at the Frogtown Community Center in St. Paul.
Estelle Timar-Wilcox | MPR News

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter announced new public safety initiatives Friday, bolstered by $10 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan.

Four million dollars will go to the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, with the rest split among the police department, public libraries, parks and recreation, and pedestrian traffic safety.

Carter called it an investment in violence prevention — not just emergency response.

“For decades, we have mistaken emergency response as an entire complete public safety system,” Carter said. “We know that a complex, comprehensive public safety strategy also  requires coordinated and proactive investments and interventions to reduce the likelihood that something dangerous will happen in the first place.”

Carter also announced the launch of Project PEACE under the Office of Neighborhood Safety, which will connect “gun violence involved individuals” with an array of support. Like the rest of the investments, the mayor says the project is intended to prevent violence before it occurs.

Brooke Blakey, the director of the Office of Neighborhood Safety, said the project’s work will look different for each individual it serves. For example, she said that the project might help  get someone to treatment, coordinate support through schools or hospitals, or social services.

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“It's a whole collaborative approach, and so it looks a little different, but it really is rooted in the village taking care of the family,” Blakey said.

The Office of Neighborhood Safety will also reallocate some of the federal funding in community grants. The office is putting together a 15-member Neighborhood Safety Community Council that will review funding proposals for local projects that contribute to public safety. 

Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar joined Carter and city officials for the announcement.

Klobuchar praised the city’s division of the funds between several offices.

“You've got to do two things at once: you've got to bolster the police, but you also have to bolster crime prevention and being there for these kids at the front end,” Klobuchar said.

The initiatives follow ongoing efforts in St. Paul to address crime and expand public safety. The city created the Office of Neighborhood Safety in February following recommendations from a Public Safety Commission.

The involvement of community members led to the approach that considers prevention in addition to punishment, Carter said.

“The more people that we bring into this conversation, what we find is, community members know that that sort of outdated approach hasn't worked,” Carter said. “People know that these strategies have to work hand in glove together as that kind of both-and strategy,” Carter said.