A report published Sunday claims that St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter abandoned an effort to help reduce violence in St. Paul as the capital city experiences the worst homicide rates in at least a decade.
According to the Pioneer Press, Ramsey County and St. Paul officials have been working to bring the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) program to St. Paul. The initiative is part of the National Network for Safe Communities out of John Jay College.
A website states that the GVI program is “designed to reduce homicide and gun violence, minimize harm to communities by replacing enforcement with deterrence, and foster stronger relationships between law enforcement and the people they serve.”
Minneapolis participates in the program and apparently has seen broad success, according to the Pioneer Press. So staff with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office drafted a grant proposal and were told that they would likely qualify for at least $100,000 to get the program up and running, but they ultimately never applied because of Mayor Carter’s concerns.
“We have to build a model that we know works in St. Paul as opposed to just sort of replicating a national model,” Carter explained in an interview with the Pioneer Press. “I am still excited for the opportunity to work with the county attorney’s office and our police department under a focused type of model and we are still working out the details.”
A Saturday night shooting that left one dead and one injured marked the city’s fourth homicide in just a week, bringing the total to 28 on the year. St. Paul’s homicide rates are approaching figures not seen in more than two decades. The worst year on record was 34 homicides in 1992.
The National Network for Safe Communities visited St. Paul in September 2018 and attributed the rise in gun violence to feuds between dozens of gangs and loosely-knit street groups. Violence between these groups accounted for at least 36 percent of St. Paul’s homicides and 40 percent of non-fatal shootings between 2015 and 2018, their findings said.
Louisa Aviles, director of GVI for the National Network for Safe Communities, spoke with Minnesota Public Radio in October about the initiative. She said GVI puts law enforcement “in touch with that very, very small number of people in a community who are involved in these very high-risk group violence dynamics and speaks directly to them.”
“It’s small networks of mostly young men who mostly know each other going back years,” she said.“They’re friends. They have family in common. They’re from the same blocks or the same developments, same neighborhoods. They have social ties and they are involved in and commit violence together.”
Mayor Carter recently announced that he will hold three community meetings in November to discuss public safety in St. Paul.
“We will never accept violence as the norm,” said Carter. “Building the safe city we deserve will require new, proactive approaches to public safety, which must be built together.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Melvin Carter” by Melvin Carter.