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Hundreds gather to share ideas about how to combat St. Paul violence

Updated: November 12, 2019 10:58 PM

People living in St. Paul are calling for more support and programming for youth in the city. They shared their ideas for how to combat violence at a public forum at Rice Recreation Center on Tuesday night.

It was the second of three meetings Mayor Melvin Carter is holding to address the rising number of homicides in St. Paul.

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On Sunday, a 20-year-old man was shot and killed just blocks from the rec center, on Wayzata Street. It was the 29th murder of 2019 in St. Paul, and the violence has some people considering relocating.

Police identify victim killed Sunday in St. Paul shooting

“I live in a very dangerous area,” St. Paul resident Jenny Lonergan said. “I have to make a decision if I want to stay in Frogtown or the St. Paul area. Woodbury is looking nice.”

She attended the meeting to get more information about how police are handling the shootings and offer her own perspective.

“I just want to be involved,” Lonergan said.

Carter announced the public meetings in October.

“We just need a new approach,” he said. “Seemingly what we've done for the last 30 years hasn't gotten us to the solution we want to be at.”

He’s asking the community to help generate ideas, which will be incorporated into a supplemental budget proposal.

“We need to build a public safety strategy that's not centered around one thing, police,” Carter said. “That's centered around our police officers working in partnership with our recreation centers and our libraries and this more comprehensive approach.”

The mayor said he hopes to have the proposal for the City Council by the end of the month. 

“We’ve got to find a way to stop this and bring our youth together so that they can realize their worth and they are important,” St. Paul resident Rosemary Nevils-Williams said.

She said she hears gunshots outside of her St. Paul home. She moved to the city after her son was shot and killed in Minneapolis last year. 

“Two lives wasted, two young men,” she said of her son and the man who shot him. “I want people to know that everyone is affected. It's a ripple effect — it goes out further and further and further.”

The city brought in the local organization Dispute Resolution Center to help facilitate the discussion. 

It separated everyone into small groups to form circles. The model is based off of the ETHOS program.

“There needs to be a lot of healing and reconciliation that goes on in our communities,” said Dr. Tamara Mattison, the Dispute Resolution Center executive director.

She's calling for more after school programming.

“Our teenagers need something to do,” Mattison said. “If they're not an athlete, then they tend to fall away and then they get into these groups of youth that really don’t have anything positive to do.”

Farji Shaheer, who lives on the east side, said young people also need to be educated about guns and conflict resolution.

“A lot of simple disputes and simple disagreements are escalated to the point where someone ends up causing physical harm to someone else,” he said.

Trauma also needs to be addressed, according to Shaheer.

“We’re tired. We're tired of it,” he said. “It's not going to go nowhere because as long as the children are traumatized, they're going to grow into adults who raise children with that same traumatized mindset."

“We can't do it alone, so you're going to need all hands on deck in order to really tackle this issue.”

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