There may still be snow on the ground, but St. Paul police and prosecutors are already thinking ahead on how to prevent teens from getting into trouble when the temperatures warm up later this summer.
Despite funding issues, St. Paul police, the Ramsey County attorney’s office and community partners are trying to find a way to continue operating a curfew center on the city’s East Side, which opened last year.
“Not a lot of good happens after dark, when you are under the age of 18,” said Todd Axtell, assistant St. Paul police chief.
The Connections Center opened its doors as part of the Safe Summer Initiative, a curfew enforcement program in which young people who violated curfew were picked up and taken to the center, where they were offered help before being reunited with their families. Services offered focused on mental health, chemical dependency, helping teens prepare for a career and more.
“A big benefit of this program is that kids aren’t being brought to jail … we are keeping kids out of the system,” Axtell said.
The nonprofit center, located off E. 7th Street at the campus of 180 Degrees, supports at-risk youths and adults. Last summer, 115 young people were dropped off there after violating curfew, said Dick Gardell, president of 180 Degrees. Nearly 60 more were referred to case managers during a time of day when the center wasn’t open.
“What we are trying to do is use the curfew law as a way of creating positive intervention,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.
Choi said the program can still make improvements, including doing better at keeping kids involved in programming.
The Ramsey County attorney’s office gave 180 Degrees about $56,000 for the center’s operation. St. Paul police contributed $10,000. The majority of the county’s funds came from grants allocated by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Those grants won’t be available this year, however, creating a funding gap of more than $30,000.
It’s not known yet how planners will make up for the shortfall.