St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said Monday that he may ask the City Council for more public safety funding in the 2020 budget, after a spate of shootings in recent months have traumatized the city.
Without offering specific policies or dollar figures, the mayor said Monday that he is considering bringing a supplemental budget proposal to the council — with the caveat that the city's financial situation depends on the outcome of the upcoming referendum on organized trash collection, which could leave the city holding the $27 million bill for garbage pickup.
Council President Amy Brendmoen said Monday evening that she hadn't previously heard about the potential supplemental budget request, but that she's been talking to the mayor's office about the city's response to gun violence and would support additional public safety spending.
"We're really hoping that after November 5 we have some latitude to do some investing in holistic public safety," Brendmoen said, referring to the referendum vote on Election Day.
The mayor's afternoon news conference came less than 24 hours after a gunfight left two men injured a few blocks from Allianz Field, the site of the Loons playoff game. In addition to the possible budget proposal, Carter said his office will announce a series of events in coming weeks for residents to talk about gun violence.
Standing beside the towering "Vision of Peace" statue in the City Hall atrium, Carter said that while the city is continuing to invest in the police department, he believes that policing alone won't stop violent crime.
"Gun violence in our community is a complex problem, and a complex problem cannot be addressed with a one-dimensional solution," Carter said. "My focus has always been on, how do we build complex, comprehensive solutions to the public safety challenges that we face?"
In conversations with residents, business owners and police officers, Carter said, the main concerns he hears related to crime are about homelessness, disengaged young people and chemical and mental health problems.
Carter's proposed 2020 budget includes about $105 million for the police department, and will bring the number of sworn officers to 630 — the highest level in St. Paul's history, though five fewer than what was approved last year.
Other public safety investments include a program to divert first-time, low-level offenders away from criminal prosecution, and a collaboration with Ramsey County, Regions Hospital and the East Metro Mental Health Roundtable to provide housing and treatment plans to people who have frequent contacts with police, firefighters and paramedics.
Last month, after a string of shootings left three men dead in less than 12 hours, the police department added extra patrols, established a task force to help with homicide and gang investigations and announced plans to employ new technology to better analyze surveillance video related to gun crimes.
Violence has claimed 24 lives in St. Paul so far this year, 22 of them from gunfire, according to St. Paul police. Though 2019 is on track to become the city's deadliest year in a decade, Carter said that violence has not reached the levels of the 1990s, when he woke up to a bullet lodged in the wall above his bed.
"St. Paul is a relatively safe city," Carter said. "But we'll never be safe enough. One shot fired is too many. One life lost in St. Paul is too many."
Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509