In West St. Paul, don’t call the cops too often

The word has gone out to the citizens who rent in West St. Paul: Don’t call the cops too much.

Residents of a 30-unit apartment complex are being thrown out because too many police calls came from residents there. Not all residents, probably, but everyone goes because the city has yanked the rental permit of the building owner.

In a week in which a crime victim is being pilloried in St. Paul, West St. Paul literally is blaming the victims.

“Revoking a rental license is not a process we take lightly,” Jim Hartshorn, West St. Paul’s community development director, tells the Star Tribune. “It’s an option that we have for ongoing problem properties [whose owners] refuse to listen to us.”

That, of course, is a legitimate gripe between city officials and an uncaring landlord. The good tenants, however, do the suffering.

But the city had a heart, it won’t make the residents homeless until the weather warms and the kids are out of school.

West St. Paul allowed a maximum of 15 police calls a year, but didn’t include medical or domestic disturbance calls in the total. So if you’re a 16th crime victim in a year, do you call the cops and risk being homeless? Or do you let it slide and keep a roof over your head?

Unlike people who own single-family homes, tenants are essentially held responsible for their neighbors in West. St. Paul.

But the city had previously yanked the welcome mat for people on government assistance.

A year ago, it passed an ordinance prohibiting people who get government rental assistance and support services from living in the city’s apartments unless they’re already residing there.

An attorney for the landlord says that two problem tenants have been removed, but getting rid of bad tenants takes time. But the question remains: Why do the good tenants have to pay for that problem with their home?

Meanwhile, county officials say while they expect many tenants will turn to the county’s emergency shelter services, it can’t even accommodate the people who are already in the system.

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