Survey says...

A police pilot project's survey has revealed many Payne-Phalen residents are very worried about drug dealing, littering, loitering and juvenile crime in their neighborhood.

The survey also revealed residents don't feel safe in their neighborhood at night and are eager to take steps to make their community a better place.

Police Cmdr. Jill McRae is heading the local arm of the project and said they received over 600 survey responses.

That was a 23 percent response rate, she said, much better than the average survey response rate of about 15 percent.

The survey revealed:

-71 percent feel somewhat/very unsafe after dark

-59 percent feel neighborhood safety is about the same now as it was a year ago

-37 percent said they or someone in their household had been a victim of a crime in the last year

-68 percent said they were very/somewhat satisfied with the quality of their contact with police

-78 percent said they were interested in becoming involved or were already involved with community events like crime watches, neighborhood Facebook pages, block parties, etc.

The survey was part of the Intelligence Led Policing Through Community Policing, Community Prosecution and Community Participation project, or IL3CP for short. It's a partnership between the St. Paul Police Department, Ramsey County Attorney's Office and the St. Paul City Attorney's Office.

By joining forces and increasing inter-agency and agency-community communication, the project hopes to reduce crime and increase the sense of safety in this particular neighborhood.

IL3CP, which started Dec. 1, focuses on six different "grid" areas spanning the lower half of District 5, basically the area bordered by Interstate 35E, Maryland Avenue, Earl Street and Minnehaha Avenue.

Littering

McRae recently returned from an IL3CP conference in Washington, D.C., where she and the other two metro areas participating in the project, Newport News, Va., and Mesa, Ariz., shared their findings so far.

Interestingly, all three found littering to be the second-most concerning issue for residents.

"It's more than just trash on the ground; it's about how proud are we of our community," McRae said.

This kind of quality of life issue can have a negative impact on the morale of the neighborhood - "People don't care, so I'm not going to care either," McRae explained.

Juvenile crime

Within 30 days or so, residents can anticipate some changes in policing and prosecuting offenses as a result of the survey, Ramsey County attorney John Choi told District 5's March 20 Great Neighborhood Meeting attendees.

One of these initiatives will address the problem of juvenile crime, hopefully diverting at-risk youth before they get into serious trouble.

That can be a challenge in some neighborhoods, one attendee lamented at the meeting. Many of the neighborhood recreation centers have very limited hours, especially those in areas where large numbers of at-risk youth live.

But Choi and McRae said these planned initiatives and partnerships will help with reaching out to local youths and their parents, giving them something constructive to do rather than resorting to unlawful behavior.

"It's about changing behavior. We think that there's hope," McRae said. "We haven't lost hope in these kids."

Already a difference

Though some of the bigger survey-inspired initiatives are still in the works, many smaller changes are already making a big difference.

"We're already up in that (neighborhood) more than normal; we're not waiting for calls," McRae said. Officers are checking problem spots they were alerted to by the survey, as well as keeping their eyes peeled for other problems residents mentioned.

Along with a city attorney, an assistant county attorney now has office hours at the St. Paul Police-Eastern District's headquarters.

"It's so much better," McRae said. "It's good with not only advice on charging but advice on solving crimes.

"The communication between the community, police and prosecutors office has changed hugely already," she added.

Community meetings with police and city and county attorneys have already made a positive impact on the community.

"People have definitely expressed an appreciation for the direct communication and the willingness of the (criminal justice) system's folks to come out and talk directly with the neighborhood, including the survey tool," said Payne-Phalen District 5 Planning Council executive director Leslie McMurray. "Any solutions to these complex issues are going to require a lot of collaboration between the community and these agencies."

Though complex, McRae, Choi and the rest of IL3CP are eager to work with the community to take on the challenge.

"I want to actually take that (survey) information and really do some good things over here on the East Side," Choi told the neighborhood meeting.

Kaitlyn Egan can be reached at kegan@lillienews.com or 651-748-7816.