Pizzas for peace: St. Paul police hope Halloween party will help heal community

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It's been a tough month for St. Paul, with the city suffering from the same rash of violence that has blighted Minneapolis and resulted in several homicides.

That's why St. Paul police are pleased to have already lined up an opportunity to provide some levity to wounded communities and improve relations between police and citizens.

On Saturday, the department's Safe Summer Nights program will hold a Halloween party from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Arlington Hills Community Center, at 1200 Payne Ave., which will feature free pizza, a rock-climbing wall, face-painting, and "lots and lots of candy," according to its Facebook event posting.

It's the first time it's tried a Halloween event, with its Safe Summer Nights program generally running through the warmer seasons. After a few days of rain, the weather should improve in time for the event, with forecasting a dry day with temperatures in the mid-50s.

The Pioneer Press reports 1,000 people are expected to attend the event, with Bob Stupka, whose St. Paul-based Davanni's Pizza & Hot Hoagies is supplying 130 pizzas for the event, saying the timing couldn't be better, even though it's been planned since early September.

"It's not rocket science," he told the paper. "We go to these parks; we go to Arlington Hills on Saturday. Give food, give out candy ... have neighbors talking to neighbors, and have neighbors talking to officers."

St. Paul's Eastern District investigative commander Steve Anderson told the newspaper the Safe Summer Nights program has taken off since it was launched, and praised its positive impact fostering good relations between police and citizens.

Three people were fatally shot between Oct. 14-21 in St. Paul, all of them within a short distance of each other on the city's East Side.

It has prompted police in the city to launch extra patrols in the area, with the spate of violence in the Twin Cities said to have veteran officers concerned.

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