Ambassador program engages teens, decreases crime in St. Paul

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A group of community ambassadors are doing their part to make their St. Paul neighborhoods a better place.

30 community ambassadors were hired to hit the streets several times a week as part of St. Paul’s Youth Intervention Initiative. Their goal is to keep teens and young adults from trouble and run-ins with police, which prevents crime at the same time.

"We were starting to see flare up of problems near mass transit when kids were moving from school to downtown to Mall of America back home,” Mayor Chris Coleman said. “We said we can take an all law enforcement approach and crack down or we can take an open handed approach and say look if you want to do the right thing here's the path to do that.”

Since the program started in places like the Payne Phalen and East Side neighborhoods, the number of juvenile arrests dropped 13 percent compared to June through March the year before.

Even better, number of teenagers arrested dropped a whopping 63 percent during those times when ambassadors were actually out on the streets.

"I think it’s good because it says that the city cares that we help our youth and pay attention instead of just locking them up we try to do something different and I think that means a lot,” Steve Randall, one of the community ambassadors, said.

Whether it’s a job or a hot meal, the ambassadors try to give the teens something to do other than being bored.

In the last year or so the program has referred nearly 2,000 teens to social programs. This summer, 30 young people got jobs through the city's right track program.