Police saturation patrols show results on St. Paul's West Side

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 16, 2011 - 8:50 PM

The community and police say crime on the West Side dropped sharply as a result of the monthlong effort.

A monthlong police saturation on St. Paul's West Side put a dent in crime and reinvigorated residents, a community leader said.

Police stepped up patrols Sept. 26 through Oct. 26 because there was a "sharp increase" in crime the preceding two months, Senior Cmdr. Steven Frazer said. The effort, dubbed Oktoberfest by police, saw overall crime rates on the West Side drop 10 percent.

"Overwhelmingly, the community is pleased with the results," said Elena Gaarder, executive director of the West Side Citizens Organization. "People are vigilant and engaged, and I think that's what it's going to take to keep the West Side a safe neighborhood."

Bike cops, the mounted patrol, gang investigators and others were called when the West Side started seeing a 15 to 20 percent jump in crimes, including robbery, aggravated assaults and burglaries, among others. Street crime and drug dealing were particularly concerning at Cesar Chavez and S. Robert Streets and Stryker Avenue and E. George Street.

The saturation effort led to drops in all major crimes, with the biggest drop in robberies, which were down about 66 percent in October compared with September, police said.

Authorities made 41 felony-level arrests, worked with landlords on problem tenants and problem properties, and made hundreds of quality-of-life checks and traffic stops, Frazer said.

There have been no reports of aggravated assaults, shots fired or robberies on the West Side since the saturation ended, he added. Patrols have returned to normal levels.

"That is what we were really hoping," Frazer said.

Police and Gaarder attribute the summer spike in crime to recent transplants to the West Side as well as non-residents who were scouting out new territory and targets. Gaarder said a few rental properties were also big factors.

"The West Side is historically a safe neighborhood," she said. "I think that people were trying to feel this area out as a new location for crime."

Police plan to meet soon with area residents, whom they credit with helping to combat the crime, to discuss ongoing safety.

Residents are being encouraged to spend time in their yards, walk their dogs and associate with their neighbors, Gaarder said. The whole situation has increased interest in block club leadership.

"It was an eye-opening experience for people," Gaarder said.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib

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