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Earlier this spring, the department’s Eastern District launched a Community Response Team (CRT), made up of four officers and a sergeant, to better respond to lower-profile crime before it escalates. The team was set to operate through the summer.
But Toupal said he decided to reallocate funds to help pay overtime costs so that all officers in the district, not just CRT officers, can focus on defusing serious crime. It’s more an expansion of the CRT concept than a disbanding of the team, he said.
“It’s going to be all our responsibilities,” Toupal said.
Sitting one afternoon in a meeting room at the Dayton’s Bluff Recreation Center, Steve Randall discussed what needs to be done to resolve some of the East Side’s crime issues, particularly with young people. Randall, who works for St. Paul Parks and Recreation, also helps East Side community ambassadors mentor teens and intervene with youth.
More jobs are needed for young people who want to get on the right path, he said.
“You are sending us out there to talk to these kids to say ‘Do something else,’ and they’re going to say, ‘[Like] what?’ ” he said.
Randall said that young people need to have more of a say about the services and programs they need. At the same time, he added, people should be more accepting of youth. “The kids need an opportunity to change perceptions,” he said.
Robin Hickman, CEO of SoulTouch Productions, agrees. She is launching a program this summer tentatively called YouthVoices East Side, in which black teenagers living on the East Side will have an opportunity to create their own media projects to depict their lives and communities.
“I believe that when they lift their voices up it will give us all hope because we will begin to see them as contributors,” Hickman said. “They need a vehicle to express that they are valuable and they can make valuable contributions to building the community.”
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495