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State troopers to patrol troubled neighborhood
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On Thursday Minneapolis City Councilmember Don Samuels, with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and neighborhood activist Jonathan Palmer, criticized state budget cuts that have affected law enforcement. Friday, Gov. Pawlenty responded with a deployment of State Troopers to the city. (MPR Photo/Brandt Williams)
Gov. Pawlenty has authorized the immediate deployment of a team of state troopers to troubled areas of Minneapolis. Twelve members of the State Patrol's Special Response Team will head to the city in the next several days to help Minneapolis police officers combat a recent surge in violent crime. Pawlenty says the deployment will be indefinite and will be coordinated by state and city law enforcement leaders. City leaders say they are pleased with the governor's response to the problem.

St. Paul, Minn. — Gov. Pawlenty announced the deployment of troopers to Minneapolis after an afternoon meeting with several city and county officials. This is not the first time the State Patrol has been called in to Minneapolis.

In 1995, Gov. Arne Carlson sent troopers during a violent summer that led to 97 murders in the city by the end of the year. Pawlenty says this year isn't nearly as bad, but he says something needs to be done.

"That's not to say that the current rate of violence is acceptable. It's tragic. It's terrible," says Pawlenty. "This is nowhere near the level of the mid-1990s, but it's worse than last year. So we want to make sure it's going in the right direction. Not in reverse."

I got to look in the eye of a governor who got to look in my eye, and we both agreed that we both as leaders need to stand up as strong as we can and work together. I very much appreciate the help.
- Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak

Pawlenty says the cost of the troopers will depend on how long they are needed, but he says he expects it to cost several hundred thousand dollars. The state will pay for half, he says, and Minneapolis and Hennepin County will pick up the rest.

Minneapolis police officials say the troopers will be placed in areas with the highest calls for service. Some troopers will be paired with Minneapolis police officers in squad cars. Some will be undercover, and some will be on foot.

The police will also have regular use of a State Patrol helicopter to help them chase down suspects. Police Chief Robert Olson says the troopers will help police officers carry out strategies that are already working.

"These folks that are dealing drugs and carrying guns on the streets are never going to know when we're going to pop up and how," says Olson.

Some city leaders have been critical of Gov. Pawlenty's role in approving state budget cuts to the state's Gang Strike Force and cuts to local government aid. On Thursday, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak and city councilmember Don Samuels blamed some of the spike in violence on those cuts. However, Rybak says they've put aside their differences with the governor.

"We're here, over here to solve problems when people are being shot, not to talk politics," Rybak says. "I got to look in the eye of a governor who got to look in my eye, and we both agreed that we both as leaders need to stand up as strong as we can and work together. I very much appreciate the help."

Councilmember Samuels is particularly appreciative of the state help. Samuels lives in the Jordan neighborhood which has been the site of several recent shootings, including the critical wounding earlier this week of a 19-month-old girl. For the last few days he's been sleeping in a tent in the middle of the neighborhood and fasting.

Samuels had vowed to continue his fast until the neighborhood got some help with more police and parole officers. He says he believes the governor's measures will help.

"I'm assured that it should be enough. I'm very good at not eating. If it is not good enough, I will be fasting again."

Samuels says he will enjoy his first taste of food in several days tonight at a block party that will be held in Jordan. At the celebration, neighborhood activists will be signing up residents to join citizen patrols that will start in the area this month.

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