Sign on St. Paul's East Side asks for help finding Mayor Coleman's balls [PHOTO]
Some residents want Mayor Coleman to ball up and take tough action against East Side crime.
In the wake of the brutal gang beating of Ray Widstrand almost two weeks ago, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Police Chief Tom Smith attended an East Side community meeting last night where they told residents of that part of town what they're doing about a recent surge in violence.
The cornerstone of their plan is to put 30 additional officers in the area in and around the Payne-Phalen neighborhood -- "a quick-response force whose sole responsibility would be to deal with the group gang activity, rather than regularly dispatched calls," the Pioneer Press reports.
It's unclear where the officers on this new force will come from. Furthermore, St. Paul cops have made headlines in recent months for all the wrong reasons -- brutally beating helpless suspects, using their firearms when less deadly force might've gotten the job done, and disrespecting minority communities.
Put it together and Mayor Chris Coleman is in a difficult spot. Frustrations with his administration and how he's handled crime on the East Side are encapsulated in this photo tweeted out by Fox 9's Tom Lyden yesterday:
I'm told sign posted by angry neighbors on SP's East Side, not cops. pic.twitter.com/ARKe6qiPU0
-- Tom Lyden (@LydenFOX9) August 16, 2013
At last night's community meeting, Coleman said the sorts of things you'd expect a politician to say in such circumstances.
"You need to know that we are together on this... We're all races, we're all ages," Coleman said. "Our strength is in uniting, not dividing... This is about acts that no community should tolerate."
Will it be enough to curtail the street gangs authorities believe were involved both in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old last month and in Widstrand's beating? Time will tell, but last night, East Side residents expressed skepticism.
"I want to know what the police are doing to make me trust you," one woman said, according to a WCCO report, shortly after another asked: "What are you going to do about those parents that let these kids run the streets?" There were no easy answers.
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