St. Paul residents sound off on state of public safety in Lowertown
St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood has a little more than 8,000 residents, and more than 300 people packed a town hall meeting Monday evening at Union Depot.
They came to tell St. Paul police, Metro Transit police and elected city leaders that persistent crime is making their neighborhood unsafe, especially at night.
One unidentified resident said Lowertown has become a “garbage can and it is really sad and pathetic.” Another resident said he was “afraid and I feel like I am getting a license to carry because of my fear.”
The vast majority of speakers said constant, open drug use, public lewdness, burglaries and sexual assaults have created an environment of anxiety and apprehension.
Some pointed at crime on light rail trains and platforms as a big contributor to the problems.
One resident said, “What you see outside, particularly late at night and into the morning, is a problem, and we obviously had fatal shootings at the next light rail station down the street.”
And another wanted Metro Transit Police to be more visible: “You don’t have anybody on the light rail unless you got a football game, a baseball game or a concert.”
Metro Transit Police Chief Ernest Morales III told residents he agreed and he was changing how patrols work on light rail trains and platforms.
“And my new program since I got here is to get the officers out of their cars and onto the transportation system where they serve each and every one of you,” Morales said.
St. Paul Police Central District Cmdr. Jesse Mollner told residents his officers are doing the best they can with short staffing making it a challenge.
“A lot of calls are pending for an inordinate amount of time, and it’s not because the officers have something better to do,” Mollner said. “It’s because they’re being called and responding to calls one after another after another.”
Through the first seven months of 2023, city records showed burglaries and sexual assaults are up in Lowertown compared to the same time period in 2022, but robberies and aggravated assaults are down.