The St. Paul Police Department kicks off its second year of summer cookouts this week.
The Safe Summer Nights program features Thursday night barbecues that are free and open to the public in neighborhoods throughout the city.
The events allow police and residents to get acquainted over a meal, rather than in a crisis.
"It's critical for law enforcement agencies to create programs that bridge the gap during times when conflict isn't present," Assistant Police Chief Todd Axtell said. "It all goes a long way with building trust and rebuilding relationships within our communities."
Each time a barbecue was held last summer, reports of criminal activity that night in that neighborhood were down from a year earlier, police spokesman Steve Linders said.
Calls for homicides and other serious crimes fell by 17 percent, aggravated assault calls fell by 21 percent, and calls for noise, vandalism and other disturbances fell by 21 percent, he said.
Officers will bring horse and motorcycle units to the cookouts, as well as items for children.
Last year, 10,000 meals were served at 13 cookouts, Linders said.
Food for the events is donated by local businesses, including Superb Meats, a wholesaler based in St. Paul on West Seventh Street.
The St. Paul Police Department's Safe Summer Nights community cookouts will be from 5 to 7 p.m. on:
· Thursday at Wilder Recreation Center, 958 Jessie St.
· June 11 at Hamline Park, 1564 Lafond Ave.
· June 18 at Rice Park, 109 W. Fourth St.
· June 25 at Groveland Recreation Center, 2021 St. Clair Ave.
· July 2 at Weida Park, 637 Burr St. N.
· July 9 at Douglas Park, 328 W. Stevens St.
· July 16 at Carty Park, 705 Iglehart Ave.
· July 23 at Arlington Hills Community Center, 1200 Payne Ave.
· July 30 at McDonough Recreation Center, 1544 Timberlake Road
· Aug. 6 at West Minnehaha Recreation Center, 685 W. Minnehaha Ave.
· Aug. 13 at Margaret Park, 1109 Margaret St.
· Aug. 20 at Conway Recreation Center, 2090 Conway Ave.
· Aug. 27 at Dayton's Bluff Recreation Center, 800 Conway St.