East side business owners hope for a safer St. Paul - KMSP-TV

East side business owners hope for a safer St. Paul

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

In the wake of recent violence on St. Paul's east side, business owners hope for a brighter future for their businesses and the entire community.

One night after a big meeting was held to discuss several violent incidents on St. Paul's east side, police are out in protecting the streets.

Bob Parker chose Payne Avenue for his new restaurant Ward Six last December for its rich history and neighborhood feel. However, he isn't the only one with a lot on his plate trying to keep the east side safe.

"I think there is something that needs to be addressed the flash mob thing. It's a new thing and we need to learn it rapidly," Parker said.

St. Paul police are learning, too, and adding 30 officers to respond specifically to the roaming gangs of young people causing problems on the east side. By Friday evening, more officers were visible along Payne Avenue. Even the Chief Tom Smith planned to join the officers Friday night.

Business owners like Jini Perry at St. Paul Floral said the beating of Ray Widstrand by several gang members and the murder of a 17-year-old during a gang fight along Payne Avenue last month are going to give her neighborhood a bad reputation.

"It will be have to be helpful," Perry said of the extra enforcement. "Just surprised it took this long because this has been going on for several months since it got warm in April."

As it turns out, statistics show violent crimes like aggravated assaults and thefts in the area are both down from last summer, while the number of robberies is up about 20 percent.

"I was thinking of leaving, but then I thought to myself, ‘Why am I going to let those juvenile delinquents drive me out of my business?" Perry said.

Parker believes once the summer ends, so will some of the problems that have been plaguing the east side, at least for now.

"Those of us who care will stay focus on what's wrong and work towards a better end and the ones who are incited right now will calm down and we'll be all right," Parker said.

In addition to the extra officers, police said they are working with Metro Transit and even adding officers on mounted horses. The city also plans to step up curfew enforcement, likely until school starts in a few weeks.

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