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Column: Will any of St. Paul's plans actually reduce violent crime?

From the column: "What about bad guys shooting each other in the streets? Do they really want to meet the other shooter's mom?"

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Rick McKee / Cagle Cartoons
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U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, neither of whom have any particular fondness for law enforcement, joined St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter last week to celebrate, among other gossamer wings, spending more seemingly endless federal grants for new ways to reduce violent crime.

The tried-and-true way of reducing crime was to arrest bad guys, prosecute them with vigor, and then throw them in jail. That is no longer considered equitable by the new-age moralists who run this place or hold seats in the U.S. Senate. Thus, a new shipment of $10 million more in American Rescue Plan Act money to be spent on new and existing outreach programs.

"So much of this is a coordinated approach," Klobuchar said. "St. Paul gets it."

That got the mayor beaming, but what exactly does St. Paul get?

Well, it gets "Project Peace," an effort to reduce retaliation for street crime by connecting individuals and families impacted by gun violence with mental health support and other holistic intervention services. We also get traffic calming and a review of the safety needs of the St. Paul Public Library system.

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Yes, but what about bad guys shooting each other in the streets? Do they really want to meet the other shooter's mom?

Carter said the project will be led by social service workers and community-based partners and will focus "direct, sustained, and persistent engagement with a small number of group-involved individuals."

Examined six ways from Sunday, it is still impossible for us, the unenlightened, to know what "group-involved individuals" means.

These new programs will be run out of the new Office of Neighborhood Safety, headed by Brooke Blakey, and are expected to be funded by $4 million in grants, some of which will have to be approved by the City Council.

Yes, new police officers will be hired across two police academies this year — more grant money — but the thrust of the community-safety initiative, or Project Peace, relies on untested ideas that appear to be difficult to measure for success or achievement. Money will be distributed far and wide, but to what end remains only wishful at this point.

For example, the city will hire a grants coordinator to work for Blakey and distribute $4 million in funding to community-based neighborhood safety initiatives, with grant recipients selected with the help of a 15-member Office of Neighborhood Safety Community Council. Oh, come on. If there were a Pulitzer Prize for meaningless and expensive gibberish, I would vote for these grant writers hands down.

The library system will get $1.5 million to add safety specialists to come up with a safety plan for libraries, including enhancing a "community-care and trauma-sensitive approach to supporting young and adult library users."

Apparently, the libraries are dangerous to the point of trauma.

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Parks and Recreation will get $1.5 million to improve access for young people while also adding intervention services to help young people gain social and emotional skills.

Traffic and Pedestrian Safety gets $1 million to do something. Whatever.

It sounds like, once again, the city of St. Paul’s payroll will grow exponentially.

Does anybody short of the two senators who showed up for the photo-op believe that any of these plans will have an impact on violent crime?

Joe Soucheray is a radio talk-show host, newspaper columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and host of the podcast Garage Logic.

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Joe Soucheray

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