While Minneapolis has been the epicenter of heinous acts over the last year, another Minnesota city has become quite the opposite. Four years ago, the city of St. Cloud decided to do something different in the way they police their city. A whopping 90% of their residents feel it has been highly successful in improving the conditions of the neighborhood.
There has been a massive reduction in thefts, burglaries, and property damage, according to a 2019 study. St. Cloud police have apprehended more drug violators than before because the officers have been able to keep a better eye on the neighborhood.
Why the dramatic changes for the better? What makes this little Minnesota city different? They took a page out of Racine, Wisconsin’s book.
The Community OutPost or COP House is a safe space for children to gather and have fun under the safety and supervision of local police officers. Racine currently has four of these houses in operation.
COP House officers also help neighborhood kids with their sports teams, partner with community members to equip them for school, teach sewing classes to their moms, and provide in-house clinics for health and dental care.
It’s not uncommon for the officers to provide pizza, fun, and other opportunities, like book club night, to bring smiles to the faces of the local community.
Kare11 reports, chief Blair Anderson addresses the importance of the COP House in their community.
“We want the kids, and the adults, to see us before they’re in crisis,” Anderson says. “So, when there is a crisis, you’ve already got that part done.”
The COP House was built four years ago in the same spot as the most troubled house in the area.
“A blight on this neighborhood,” Anderson describes the previous home. Police had been called to the house 100 times in five years.
It was decided by the community that the problem house would be demolished, and a new era would be erected via the COP House. Local community members provided even the funding and labor.
“It’s in the neighborhood, it’s embedded in the community,” said Sgt. Ryan Sayre, who supervises the COP House.
Sayre elaborates, telling stories of parents ringing the COP House doorbell to sit down with an officer at the kitchen table and discuss options and resources for a child they suspect is being lured into drugs or gangs.
The COP House has been serving the community in miraculous ways while still maintaining the integrity and upholding the law, even if the offenders are the parents of children who frequent the COP House.
“We arrested mom and dad. They got out of jail a couple hours later – we were doing a basketball tournament at this park – mom and dad still showed up to watch their kids play,” said Taylor McIntyre, one of the officers assigned to the house.
The COP House is located across the street from a local boys & girls club and a park. It blends in with the rest of the homes.
Congressman Tom Emmer, whose district includes the neighborhood, has seen enough to be impressed. The Republican has introduced legislation to make the COP House model a pilot program for police departments across the country.