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St. Paul Police Department to open substation at Midway Center

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Calvin

sppd_patchMidway Center will become the home of a new St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) substation. The St. Paul City Council Sept. 21 unanimously approved an agreement with center owner RK Midway to occupy a vacant storefront there. The lease starts October 1 and extends through Sept. 2017.

The substation opens at a time when there have been growing concerns about crime in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood north of the shopping center and in the neighborhoods to the west.

Police Chief Todd Axtell and City Council President Russ Stark, said that the substation is opening in response to crime issues. Stark said the area had seen an increase in drug dealing, more calls about shots fired and more reports of assaults.

“People have been asking for more police presence in the area,” said Stark. The Midway Center area has a beat cop and has had increased patrols recently. “There are concerns about the uptick in some types of crime, and we hope having the substation there is a deterrent.”

Axtell said the storefront gives police more visibility in the area. “We’ve been pretty active in the Midway Center area, and we’re glad to have the opportunity to have space there at little cost to the department.” The city won’t pay any rent for the space but will cover other costs such as furnishings.
The storefront has the support of area district councils and the Midway Chamber of Commerce.

Midway Center and its adjacent neighborhoods are in the Western Police District. SPPD statistics indicate that overall, crime in the district has decreased just under 1 percent in the first eight months of 2016 when compared to 2015. However, some types of crime are on the upswing. Crimes against persons, which covers assaults, are up 9 percent from the same period last year. There have been frequent complaints in the area about large groups of young people who are disruptive.

Stark and Axtell said the intent is for the substation to be short-term. Midway Center is slated for a dramatic redevelopment. The Rainbow grocery store, adjacent stores, and Big Top Liquor, are to make way for a Major League Soccer stadium in the future. Shopping center owner RK Midway plans to work with the soccer team owners and other partners to redevelop the 1950s shopping center into a high-density, mixed-use development with retail, green space, offices, hotels and apartments. That development is expected to roll out over a longer period, in part as existing center leases expire.

For more than 20 years, the  SPPD and the city’s 17 district councils embarked on a high-profile campaign to add substations throughout the city. The stations were in district council offices, private businesses and in institutions. There were almost 20 small spaces at various times. Police used the spaces to sit and do paperwork, meet with citizens and in some cases, have limited office hours.

Few active substations remain, although Highland District Council and the Police Department worked together a few years ago to have a substation at Sibley Plaza.

Axtell and Stark said they don’t see the city returning to a trend of establishing multiple substations. Stark said he saw the Midway Center agreement as meeting a specific need and is a unique opportunity to use a space without having to pay rent.

“We’d be open to hearing from neighborhoods if they believe there is a need,” Axtell said.

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