St. Paul business owners are pleading with the city government to act on crime

Last week I wrote about the sense of desperation which is becoming increasingly common among small business owners in Minneapolis in the face of the city government’s failure to do anything to stem the rise in violent crime. Sadly, much the same is happening in St. Paul.

Businesses are harmed by a general increase in violent crime

Last week, Fox 9 reported:

Minnesota restaurant owner called on local leaders to “step up” and help curb crime amid a spike, stressing that the increase in robberies is “not good for business.”

Brian Ingram, owner of Purpose Driven Restaurants in Saint Paul, told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday that his computers and safe were stolen and his customers were victims of crime as well. He stressed that the increase in crime in Minnesota scares away customers.

According to St. Paul Police Department’s preliminary 2020 year-end crime statistics released last month, there was a 32.1% increase in robberies in the city last year.

In a Facebook post, Ingram called out local leaders for the surge, stressing that they need to do something to fix the problem.

“This is insanity that our businesses are being robbed daily,” he said in the post.

Ingram went on to ask, “Where are you, elected officials? What are you doing? It’s time for you to step up and step out.”

Ingram explained that the past few months have been “difficult” due to the coronavirus pandemic and the associated restriction on restaurants.

“We shut down our restaurant and started a community kitchen kind of during all of this and we continue to serve our community every day,” Ingram told host Brian Kilmeade.

He noted that “we’ve served over 100,000 free meals” during the pandemic “and run a community pantry along with our restaurants.”

“It’s been a tough road and we’re hoping to get back to some sort of normal, but we’re getting even more frustrated now,” Ingram said referring to the increase in robberies.

He then explained all the crime he has experienced recently.

Ingram said he has three local restaurants and two days after opening a new office for them “all of our office computers [were] stolen.”

“One of my other restaurants, last week had somebody come in in the middle of the afternoon, at 3:00, and rob us,” he continued, adding that on another occasion, “we had our safe stolen.”

“We’ve had a customer that just had their car carjacked,” Ingram said.

“This is so crazy for me, as a restaurant owner,” he went on to say, stressing that all the crime “scares people.”

“They felt so scared to come into restaurants because of COVID and now we’re going to put, ‘Oh, you might get robbed or you might get carjacked,’” he explained. “It’s so, so difficult and so, so scary.”

In a statement, Melvin Carter, the mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, said, “The incidents in our community has recently endured underscore the urgency of our work to evolve public safety systems beyond just emergency response, to include data-driven crime prevention and intervention strategies.”

“We are actively partnering with local residents, business leaders, and law enforcement to move this work forward with due speed,” Carter continued.

Ingram told Kilmeade the mayor’s statement upsets him even more.

“What really upsets me is I can get an alert and they can e-mail me and text me and say ‘Your tables aren’t six feet apart, you’re not doing this, or you’re not doing that,’ but you don’t call and tell me that, ‘Oh by the way 20 restaurants and businesses within blocks of you have been robbed in the last couple weeks, take extra security, make sure that you’re protecting your staff,’” he said.

“We do all of those things, but it would have been really helpful if you told me every business around me had been robbed in the last couple weeks.”

With the economy, especially small businesses, struggling with COVID-19 and the government’s responses, the last thing they need is to be dealing with a violent crime wave on top of that.

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