“#MeToo. It’s still going on. We’re past the point of being shook up about it. We’re just sick and tired of it. We’re scared for our families, I’m not scared for myself, I’m just sick and tired. … Enough. Just so we’re clear. We’ve had enough. No more.”
You could hear it in her voice, the frustration that West St. Paul Mayor Jenny Halverson felt after multiple women spoke up during the Oct. 8 city council meeting—again—to decry targeted attacks of tires punctured with screws.
I immediately thought of the timeless quote from civil rights legend Fannie Lou Hamer:
“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Targeted Harassment in West St. Paul
That’s about where the women of West St. Paul are at. They’ve started their own activist group, Women of West St. Paul, that’s hosted three candidate forums and organized voter registration drives.
Women who have spoken up in West St. Paul appear to have been targeted for vandalism and harassment. There are more than a dozen cases of screws driven into tires or planted behind vehicles (with washers so they stand up). Most of these incidents happened in May and June, but another rash of them cropped up recently. Some people have been hit multiple times—one even got hit before and after moving across town. The targets have included elected officials—Mayor Jenny Halverson and recently State Senator Matt Klein—as well as regular citizens.
The West St. Paul police department has said that the cases don’t appear to be random, but they haven’t offered more details or updates.
It’s a difficult case because there’s not much to investigate. It’s unlikely anyone could get fingerprints from screws, and even if they could, there’s no guarantee there would be a match in the criminal database. This isn’t an episode of CSI. The best hope is for someone to witness an attack or capture it on video.
Since the attacks appear to be politically motivated, some people have pointed fingers across the political divide. But political disagreement is not probable cause.
So with little action or update, it’s no wonder that women in West St. Paul are frustrated.
What can be done?
More From the Police
One thing that has been lacking is an informational update from the West St. Paul Police Department. Police Chief Bud Shaver didn’t offer an update during the council meeting when women spoke up, but city staff usually only speak when spoken to. It’s on the city council to ask for an update.
And what kind of update could the police give? I don’t know. It’s unclear to me what they’re able to say about an active investigation, but they should be able to comment in a general way about a public safety issue.
Multiple times in the past few months the police department’s Facebook page has offered updates about public safety issues, including a shooting at SuperAmerica, a request for help identifying a bank robber, and a crime alert about packages being stolen.
They did offer a crime alert about the screws in tires back in June. But there’s been no update since.
It seems like the West St. Paul Police Department could give some guidance to the public on this issue:
- Report every instance of a punctured tire to the police. (Or don’t? I don’t know what’s helpful here and this is why we need guidance.)
- Be vigilant and call the police if you see something suspicious. (Though I worry about recent stories of white people calling the police on people of color for non-issues.)
- Consider installing security cameras and here are some recommended options. (It’s probably not on the police to make recommendations, but maybe Blink, Ring, Nest, etc. There are a lot of wireless options these days that can be easy to install.)
I don’t know exactly what kind of guidance the police department could give, but I think they could give something.
At the very least they could reassure the public that they’re doing everything they can. That’s an easy answer.
It’s frustrating for everybody. But when people are being targeted and attacked, they need to hear something, even if it’s a simple, “We hear you, and we’re doing everything we can.” (Something my wife suggested.)
City council candidate Wendy Berry is also frustrated. But instead of giving in, she’s organized a tire changing clinic for women in the city. It will take place Sunday, Oct. 28 at Zak’s Auto Service.
“When they go low, we find screws in our driveways and in our tires. When we go high, we empower women and we show them how to change their tires in case this happens to them.”
Registration is required to ensure a hands-on experience.
Update (Oct. 19, 2018): Police Statement
The Police Department has received a number of vandalism complaints (screws in tires) over the past several months. Some of these incidents appear criminal, while others are likely the result of a road hazards. Our officers have and continue to fully investigate each suspected criminal incident in an effort to identify the person(s) responsible. By their nature, vandalism incidents have a low solvability rate. The police department is conducting proactive efforts to increase the chance of catching this person(s). We empathize with each victim and share their frustration that a person would commit such a cowardly act.
If you believe you are the victim of such an act or have any info on who is behind this, please call our non-emergency line at 651-322-2323 or reach out here via DM with any questions.