Gidget Bailey didn’t get the substation that Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said he would put in the basement of her Tin Cup’s bar. On Monday, a new office for the sheriff’s Community Outreach and Intervention Unit opened in a former Dairy Queen a mile to the south at Rice and Sycamore.
Bailey was giddy nonetheless.
“It’s going to be a safety net,” said Bailey, who contemplated closing her Rice Street institution after rival gangs exchanged gunfire in her parking lot, nearly striking her son. “This might not solve all the shootings, but it will definitely make a difference.”
That’s the idea, said Fletcher, who described the substation as a place where young people can find information on job training, education and youth programs in addition to deputies heading out on patrol while riding fat-tire bikes.
“Being out in the community is a critical component nowadays,” Fletcher said. “Kids are struggling. We want to intervene in those struggles.”
The sheriff said that the outpost will cost taxpayers nothing. The building and parking were donated to the sheriff’s office by the Kloek family, owners of nearby Ace Auto Parts. The furniture came from the recently closed Boys Totem Town. Undersheriff William Finney, who heads community relations for the sheriff’s office, said that in addition to community outreach deputies, the substation will also be a stop for patrol deputies, gang outreach workers and members of the sheriff’s Young Ambassadors program.
“We want to show a highly visible presence, to help the community understand we want to maintain their safety,” said Finney, a former St. Paul police chief.
Ramsey County deputies patrol several suburbs outside the city. But this effort will bring a few deputies into the center of St. Paul neighborhoods long plagued by gunshots and gang violence.
Bailey, one of a cadre of area residents demanding that the city beef up its police presence and open a station nearby, said Fletcher called her the day after the shooting in her parking lot and promised to open a substation.
“He’s kept his promises,” she said.
Fletcher said the substation is meant to complement the work of the St. Paul police, not supplant it. “They can’t really be everywhere,” he said.
A police department spokesman, Sgt. Mike Ernster, said “the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office has been a great partner and we are looking forward to continuing to work with them to keep the community safe.”
City Council Member Dai Thao, who represents the area that includes the substation, said he “appreciates Sheriff Fletcher being a leader. St. Paul is proud to partner with the county.”