St Paul’s West Seventh Street businesses, patrons say downtown crime a…

A shooting leaving one dead and several injured at a W. Seventh Street bar has highlighted reports of increased crime in the area, according to business owners and patrons.

The Seventh Street Truck Park sits in the heart of a major entertainment district on the edge of downtown St. Paul. The district is home to a stretch of bars and restaurants in addition as quirky shops that draw customers from not only the Twin Cities but across the state, with many attending concerts and hockey games at the nearby Xcel Energy Center. It’s also seen an arrival of upscale apartments and condominiums in recent years.

Kathy Gosiger, general manager of Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub on West Seventh, said news of the shooting spread rapidly among bar owners, and her restaurant almost immediately locked its doors and made sure patrons got safely into cars or Ubers.

“It absolutely impacts us,” she said. “The Truck Park, sadly, is known to have problems. … The police in this city are wonderful, and they’re so disrespected on the street. There’s no leadership coming from the mayor’s office or the city council.”

On the night before 14 people were shot, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher expressed specific concern about the quantity of patrons spilling outside onto the sidewalk. “Quite the gathering here at the Truck Park,” he said, during his Facebook Live cast. “We never had any shots fired right here. I hope we never do. But with this quantity, at some point it’s going to happen, right? It’s become a very popular place.”

John Bandemer, a senior commander with the St. Paul Police Department, is a director of safety strategies for the St. Paul Downtown Alliance, a coalition of city and business leaders.

“The events of last night were tragic and will not be tolerated by the downtown community,” said Bandemer, in a written statement released by the Downtown Alliance. “I’ve been in communication with Chief Axtell and Senior Commander Ellison this morning to offer the help of the Downtown Improvement District’s Safety Communications Center in any way that we can, and have directed all of our on-duty Street Team members to have a heavy presence in that area for the next few days. I have the utmost confidence in Chief Axtell and the St. Paul Police Department in finding justice for the victims.”

Dave Cossetta, owner of Cossetta’s restaurant and grocery across the street from the Seventh Street Truck Park, said crime has been increasing in the neighborhood for some time and “it’s not being addressed” by the city.

“There’s been continued contact from the neighborhood — from the business owners to the residents, (directed to city officials) … They’re regularly telling them all the situations that are going on,” Cossetta said.

He said Freedom House — the drop-in day shelter for the homeless that opened in late 2020 two blocks away at a former fire stop — closes each evening and people disperse from there. That generates problems for the area, he said. Other nearby business owners have weighed in, echoing concerns about vagrancy and vandalism, and police chronicled a sizable uptick in thefts and quality of life crimes in the first half of the year compared to 2020.

Throughout downtown in general, however, crime reports over the summer fell to a five-year-low.

The St. Paul City Council is tentatively scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to allow more drop-in day shelters for the homeless in business districts and mixed-use zoning areas across the city. The mass shooting provides a difficult backdrop to that vote.

“The problems have been escalating since they started it,” Cossetta said.

Experts who study national crime trends have pointed to increases in violent crime across the U.S. since 2014, though overall numbers are nevertheless well below their peak in 1990. In Minneapolis, residents have expressed concern about rising violence, including crime in popular destination areas such as Uptown, where organizers of an annual Greek Festival pulled out in August. In the 1800 block of Nicollet method in Minneapolis, a shootout Wednesday between occupants of two cars resulted in a crash that killed a woman rolling by on a scooter.

Josh Morrison said he left Patrick McGovern’s Pub in St. Paul near closing early Sunday morning and saw officers rolling out police crime scene tape at the Truck Park across the street. He said it was then he decided he’d had enough.

“I’m not going to go back downtown,” said Morrison, a University of Minnesota student who said he was robbed downtown by a group of young men last Wednesday and had a gun pulled on him a month ago. “It hurts my heart. It’s shocking. Life’s a precious thing, why would you wantonly waste it like that?”

Morrison, who moved to the Twin Cities to study at the University of Minnesota, said he had been a repeat victim.

“I had a gun pulled on me a month ago,” Morrison said. “Just being downtown, I know where not to walk. It shouldn’t be that way. Why don’t we have something set up for people to drop their guns off, and have them destroyed, some place where they can get them off the street?”

Early Sunday afternoon, St. Paul Police announced multiple arrests in the mass shooting from the night before. City Council Member Rebecca Noecker, who represents downtown and plans to meet with residents and business owners for a breakfast discussion  this week, released a statement on Sunday praising first responders and investigators for their quick response.

“We will not allow this tragedy to define us or keep up us back on our progress to make downtown safe,” she said.

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