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With 19 homicides in St. Paul so far this year, Mayor Carter wants to cut 5 police officers

Yesterday was a bloody day in Saint Paul. As the Star Tribune reports,

It’s been a deadly 12 hours in St. Paul where three people have been fatally shot, including a good Samaritan who was helping victims of a multivehicle crash.

The carnage began Monday afternoon when a man walking in the city’s North End was struck by shots fired from across the street. Later Monday, police were called to a car crash in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood where one of the drivers shot a man who came out of his home to help the crash victims. Homicide investigators were called a third time after two men shot in the Frogtown neighborhood arrived at Regions Hospital early Tuesday. One of the men died upon his arrival, St. Paul police said.

The three deaths raised St. Paul’s homicide total for 2019 to 19.

According to data from the City of Saint Paul, 2019 has already seen more homicides in the city than in 6 of the previous ten years, as Figure 1 shows.

Figure 1: Homicides in Saint Paul

Source: City of Saint Paul

One of the core functions of government – even small government folks generally agree with this – is to protect the public. On this measure, Saint Paul’s government is failing. Sadly, Mayor Carter’s administration is not taking the problem seriously.

As MPR News reported last week,

St. Paul’s police chief is asking City Council members not to pass Mayor Melvin Carter’s 2020 budget that proposes to cut five future officer positions.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell asked the City Council for more, not fewer, officers and resources for his department. 

The department’s 635 officers are responsible for serving more than 300,000 people in St. Paul. Axtell said officers have trouble responding to the increasing number of 911 calls in recent years. The most serious are called Priority-2, which require an officer be dispatched within 30 seconds. 

“The most frequent P-2 timed out call is an in-progress domestic call,” Axtell said. “Our most serious crimes in progress waited to be dispatched longer than the allowable wait time within 30 seconds. This is 14 times a day.”

Axtell said it’s taking too long by department standards about 45 times a day for his officers to respond to all types of calls to police.

Mayor Carter isn’t alone in his attitude. Ward 4 council member Mitra Jalali Nelson said that people should just stop calling the police so much.

“An increase in calls doesn’t mean an increase in crime and it doesn’t necessarily relate to our performance in responding to calls…It certainly raises questions for me about the culture we are setting about everyone calling the police for everything when that might not be necessary.”

Is that really the best Saint Paulites can expect from their government?

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 

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