St. Paul public safety officials pitch plan to combat growing gun problem

St. Paul public safety officials pitch plan to combat growing gun problem

St. Paul public safety officials pitch plan to combat growing gun problem

St. Paul public safety officials pitched a plan to the City Council on Wednesday to combat a ‘growing gun problem.’

Brooke Blakey, director of St. Paul’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, led the presentation asking the city’s elected body for permission to use 60% of the city’s public safety allocation ($7.5 million out of a total of $13.6 million) from the Legislature over the next three years to get the job done.

St. Paul Police Chief Axel Henry requested roughly $3 million for the police department to fund, in part, overtime for investigators and hiring a civilian engagement specialist in hopes of increasing witness cooperation and solving more cases.

“Our homicide solvability rates are usually about 85%, almost 90%. And this year, until the latest one, which I’m very confident will be added to that group, we had 100% solvability,” Henry said. “And so the question becomes then, if you can do that for other cases, why can’t you do that for nonfatal shootings?”

The remaining requests went beyond the policing.

St. Paul EMS requested roughly $2 million to build staff and send nine EMTs to paramedic school.

Another $1.4 million would hire full-time, in-house ‘outreach workers,’ also known as gun violence interrupters.

“Making sure that we have someone who is on the ONS [Office of Neighborhood Safety] contract with the city and not always wholly dependent on community-based organizations that have to get their funding from philanthropy,” she said.

The St. Paul City Attorney’s Office also pitched an expanded gun diversion program modeled after Urban Ventures in Minneapolis, according to Tamara Larson, a managing attorney for the St. Paul City Attorney’s Office.

The last item of note was a $600,000 request for the Office of Technology and Communications for several mobile trailer cameras.

“We hope that that can help be a deterrent, a sign that the city is watching, the city is doing something, the city is here to enhance our public safety,” said Jaime Wascalus, director and chief information officer of St. Paul’s Office of Technology and Communications.

Chief Henry also unveiled his 2024 budget recommendations — his first since taking the job. St. Paul is not requesting any more patrol officers in the next year, instead focusing on recruiting to fill the existing vacancies first and expanding civilian positions on the force, Henry said.

The City Council is scheduled to vote to finalize the city budget in mid-December.