November 02, 2017 08:06 PM
The city needs to find ways to reduce gun violence.
On that, all five candidates for mayor in St. Paul agreed when they met in the final debate before Election Day.
Settling on a common solution, though, proved more challenging.
Police records show there have been more than 1,100 calls for shots fired in the city this year, up 37 percent over 2016.
So it was perhaps not surprising it was a major theme in Thursday's debate.
"I believe we need more police officers in St. Paul," candidate Pat Harris said.
As part of a five-point plan, Harris supports adding 50 new officers over a four year period - an approach that's drawn criticism from some.
"It's kind of a ridiculous theory to think there's going to be kind of a phalanx of helmeted officers walking through neighborhoods," Harris said at the debate hosted by MPR News.
"No, this is about the police working with the community and developing relationships in the community."
Current City Council member Dai Thao echoed those remarks to an extent - saying he'd support additional undercover sting operations to root out gangs and gun trafficking.
"Gun violence has no place in St. Paul," Thao said.
But others disagreed with the approach completely.
Candidate Melvin Carter, for instance, said the city should focus on investing in safer neighborhoods and education instead.
"We've bought into this false philosophy over the past generation that public safety is about hiring more cops and finding tougher prosecutors and building bigger jails," he said. "That's not only failed to produce safer neighborhoods, that's actually what is destabilizing our communities."
Candidates Elizabeth Dickinson and Tom Goldstein both said the solution lies in community policing. Dickinson focused in part on new training for officers, as well as relationship building.
"If we bring the community together with the police," she said. "That is how we reduce gun violence."
Goldstein added there are better ways to deploy police officers that the city already has.
"Get officers walking beats," he explained, "Going door to door, talking to people. And in the long term, it's about all of the structural things that we have neglected."
Other topics covered the two-hour debate included included homelessness, modern street cars, public schools and a controversial campaign mailer all five candidates condemned.
Updated: November 02, 2017 08:06 PM
Created: November 02, 2017 04:31 PM
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