By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On a quiet block where only the buzz of a mower fills the air, the pleasantries of a hello and a hug mean the world to Victoria Caprioni.

The 29-year resident of St. Paul, who was just greeted by a police officer outside her home, is well known by these men in blue.

“I mentioned her name today in roll call with the officers who work afternoon shift, and they were like, ‘Oh yeah, Victoria’s great, we love Victoria,’” said East District Commander Kurt Hallstrom.

She recently attended a community meeting in the police department’s east district.

“And I said, ‘You know what, I just had this idea this morning,’” Caprioni said.

It was simple. Encourage neighbors to step outside their homes at 6 p.m. and talk. That’s it.

“What if we did this? And Kurt liked it,” she said.

He liked it so much, the idea was shared across the department. St. Paul PD shared it on its Facebook page, saying: “Where will you be at 6 p.m. this evening? We hope you’ll join our friend Victoria, who is organizing a Moment for Community Solidarity. She’s asking everyone in Saint Paul to stop what they’re doing at 6 tonight, step outside and … wave, smile and say hello to their neighbors.”

Hallstrom said officers in his district were also encouraged to step out of their cars and talk with people. He and several officers specifically visited Caprioni’s block. He said it’s a necessary step in fighting crime that doesn’t happen enough.

“If you see somebody broken down on the road, it’s easy to drive by, but if you know that person you’re more likely gonna stop, and that’s true for neighbors in your neighborhood,” he said.

There have been 23 homicides in St. Paul so far in 2019, and more than 120 people have been victims of shootings.

“There seems to be a breakdown, and you can tell by the divisiveness everywhere that we need to learn how to have better dialogue, and more effective dialogues, and to value each other as people,” said Caprioni.

The shootings plaguing the city haven’t exactly hit Caprioni’s doorstep, but silence and hiding in the safety of her home isn’t an option.

“Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away,” she said.

That’s why she’s making it her goal to get to know the people on her block, even if they don’t exactly feel the same way.

“I can’t tell anybody what to do. I certainly can’t make anything happen, but all I can do is plant ideas and plant seeds and see if they grow. If they do, great,” she said.

The sentiment was shared by Cmdr. Hallstrom.

“It costs us nothing to do something like this, and if it catches on, great. And if it’s something that’s small that we just do on the east side, then that’s OK, too,” he said.

Jeff Wagner