St. Paul is named the 'worst' city in Minnesota

Violent crime played a big role in the city's designation as "worst" in the state.

Violent crime played a big role in the city's designation as "worst" in the state. Anthony Souffle, Star Tribune

It has been decided. A definitive ranking of the cities in every state by 24/7 Wall Street looked St. Paul dead in the eye and called it the worst city in Minnesota. Its peers include Cleveland, Bridgeport, Memphis, and the city of song: Gary, Indiana.

KARE 11 journalist Jana Shortal called the designation “harsh.” She shared the ranking on Twitter and asked her “STP people” to sound off. Is St. Paul really “the worst?”

Sound off they did.

It’s easy to understand why they may be a little defensive. When people dunk on St. Paul, they usually focus on nasty potholes, ancient wars over plowing and garbage collection, a certain inferiority complex toward its sister city, and a general ineffable miasma of squareness that permeates its reputation. You can purchase greeting cards that say “Sorry you’re moving to St. Paul” in several boutique shops in the area.

If you’re from St. Paul, you can argue that all that sophomoric stuff is undeserved… for the most part.

But 24/7 Wall St. claims it used 25 completely different measures to determine which cities in each state are the absolute worst, including cost of living, property taxes, mortality rate, and even the average time it takes residents to get to work. St. Paul’s cardinal sin, according to that hodgepodge of data, is violent crime.

“In St. Paul, there were 651 violent crimes for every 100,000 people [in 2017], more than double the violent crime rate of 238 incidents per 100,000 people across Minnesota as a whole,” the report says. That crime is usually concentrated in “poor areas,” and the report goes on to say that 20 percent of the population live below the poverty line. Statewide, that’s more like 11 percent.

It’s true that some neighborhoods are struggling more than others. A 2018 report from the St. Paul Police Department shows a sizable disparity in 911 calls per 1,000 people. Mac-Groveland and Como are near the low end with around 350. Hamline-Midway, Thomas-Dale, and Dayton’s Bluff are near the higher end at over 1,000 apiece. Downtown dwarfs them all with nearly 4,200.

To say that St. Paul doesn’t have a crime issue while you’re sitting pretty in Highland (365) or Battle Creek (515) might be a little naïve.

But St. Paul Police Department spokesperson Steve Linders thinks it’s unfortunate to see the city painted as worst in the state.

“I think people may be surprised to hear that St. Paul is listed… because we do have a safe city,” he says. It’s certainly not, say, Chester, Pennsylvania, which had a violent crime rate of 1,600 per 100,000 people in 2017. We’re not even Keokuk, Iowa, which had 867 violent crimes per 100,000 people that same year.

Serious crimes do occur, Linders says, and it’s important not to diminish their importance. But overall, violent crime has dropped 7.2 percent between 2017 and 2018. That’s in no small part to working with the people who live in those neighborhoods with higher rates.

Besides, the city is growing and thriving, he says, noting the people from all around the world running businesses on University Avenue. Linders loves the great restaurants on the East Side. He loves the “great neighbors” who live there.

“I think it’s a great place to live,” he says. And if there are people out there who don’t think so, they’re missing out.