It seems whenever I go out of town, especially to a smaller community but even to a surrounding suburb, I get asked about crime. From the perception some have of Saint Paul, Minneapolis, or the Midway specifically, you would think we all must walk around afraid and eager to move away. But actual crime statistics tell a different story.
Despite the perception many have that we live in a dangerous area, I have also been hearing that crime is actually going down. So I called Stacy Murphy, the Senior Commander of Saint Paul’s Western District. Stacy is on the Midway Chamber’s Board of Directors (we have had the Western District Senior Commander on for many years), and she is one of the nicest people in our neighborhood. She read off crime stats for both Saint Paul in general and specifically the Western District, and both show a fairly dramatic drop in crime.
In stats from the Saint Paul Police Department, between Jan. 1-July 15, citywide crime is down in different categories between 14% (robbery) to 40.7% (shots fired) compared to last year. Most have declined over 30% (overall crime, theft, and auto theft). In the Midway, the numbers are similar through July 23 with a drop in shots fired from 480 in 2022 to 229 in 2023- a 52.2% decline.
What about nationally? According to the Council on Criminal Justice, crime is down overall nationally. But results vary widely between municipalities and not every municipality provides data. When particular categories are listed, the percentages tend to be much smaller for overall numbers than we have at the local level. One noticeable difference is auto theft, where the national trend is up. In a figure showing 21 different cities, Rochester, N.Y. has seen an increase in auto theft of 355% from Jan.1- June 30. They were a major outlier, with the next five cities falling between 162-107%. Number seven on the list? Minneapolis, with an increase of 77%. The bottom nine on the list all had a decrease in auto theft. At the very bottom? Saint Paul with a 42% decrease. The next two cities were at 27%, making Saint Paul quite comfortably in the best position.
So… the big question. What can we attribute this significant drop in crime to? On the local level, the Office of Neighborhood Safety has been working hard to reduce crime. Nationally, courts are back up after the pandemic made it difficult. Knowing you are more likely to end up in court and face consequences may be a deterrent to some. Senior Commander Murphy also stated different departments have done a good job working together; a trend she imagines also occurs in other metro areas. The HART team (Homeless Assistance Response Team) is an initiative that began in late 2021, and is housed at the City of Saint Paul’s Department of Safety & Inspections and works closely with homeless encampments.
It’s natural for people to think crime is up. In today’s world, they are more likely to read about an incident on social media, especially NextDoor where an “incident” might simply be a misunderstanding or a case of profiling. But it’s important to know the stats and the actual trends. We are not back to pre-pandemic levels yet but are certainly trending in that direction. It’s also important to remember one of the best tools to combat crime: eyes. The more eyeballs in an area, the less likely someone will want to commit a crime. Encourage large gatherings in the community and find reasons to invite friends to the Midway.
Even with crime going down, it is always important to be safe and be smart. Consider ways to make yourself and others safer, including getting to know your neighbors better. The Midway is strong and it becomes stronger when people know each other. Thank you to everyone who has helped build our community.
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