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Residents pack forum to address violence, crime on St. Paul's East Side

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Hundred of neighbors, along with city leaders, packed Arlington Hills Lutheran Church Thursday night to voice concerns over a recent rash of crime on the East Side of St. Paul.

WCCO reports since June 1, there have been seven street fights in the area involving dozens of people.

Residents told stories of theft, burglary, assault and an overwhelming number of kids running wild, some allegedly associated with gangs like the East Side Boyz, or its affiliate Ham Crazy.

The forum was prompted by the mid-July shooting death of 17-year-old Vincent Allison, WCCO said.

A couple weeks later, 26-year-old Ray Widstand was brutally beaten just a few blocks away from his apartment as he tried to pass a brawl involving dozens of youths.

St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith said the department is stepping up police presence with an additional 30 officers, a quick-response force whose only priority is to deal with group gang activity, the Pioneer Press reported.

"This is more than just about the police department." Smith said. "There needs to be other strategies, whether it's with our schools and parks and rec, we're working with all our partners."

"I can't arrest our way out of this problem," Smith said in FOX 9's report.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said the city is also trying to step up inspections of rundown and otherwise troublesome properties where groups of kids have been known to congregate, the Star Tribune noted.

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