I'll start out with some interesting news about criminal activity that, coming on the heels of recent car break-ins, serves as another signal of the official early start of summer this year. Seems there was some counterfeit money being passed in the Bibelot a few days ago which might have gone unnoticed if not for Ned Wesenberg from Park 76 paying his usual hawk-like attention to the goings on in our north St.AP business district. He noticed someone in fatigues getting out of a van who looked suspicious (if you've seen as many scams come and go around here as Ned has, you get a sense of these things) so he followed him into the Bibelot where Mr. Camo bought a small item and paid for it with a hundred. After he left, Ned took a quick look, saw it was counterfeit (see above parenthetical) and confronted him on the street asking for the return of the money. The man ran, his buddy in the getaway van tried to pick him up but when he saw he couldn't, high-tailed it the wrong way down Gove, through a red light and off on Como as Ned proceeded to chase his buddy through some backyards until he caught him and got the money back. 

Are you out of breath yet? I am. I told Ned he has to be more careful, but he certainly is a lot younger and in better shape than I, so I didn't push it. Those who know Ned might also know he is passionate about the Park and makes sure all of his employees pay attention. We are fortunate to have those extra eyes and ears keeping track of our mainstreet. As I said earlier, I think anyone who has worked retail for awhile can tell the difference between a legitimate customer and someone up to something, but for newer or less assured employees, it may feel difficult to question strangers or find the right approach to follow up on a suspicion without offending. Contributors to the listserv have chewed on this topic before and I trust neighbors will continue to discuss what is an appropriate response to suspicious behavior. I won't rekindle the pros and cons of that now, suffice it to say, we are a community that has a proud reputation as being very friendly, sympathetic and philanthropic and so have been a traditional target for a variety of scams over the years. Pay attention, be inquisitive but always polite, and talk to someone in authority if you have cause for concern. Oh, and be thankful for our business neighbors like Ned, who care deeply about this community and the well-being of its citizens.

listserv - In related seasonal news, someone sprayed paint Steve Townley's building across from the Methodist Church on Como Avenue and several neighbors have reported thefts from their cars on the street. That brought up a conversation on whether you should leave your car unlocked if it's not in a garage overnight. Opinions supported both ways, but general rule of thumb no matter what, is not to leave anything in the car of value. It's a tough choice between allowing someone access to your car (one person reported the smell of smoke as if someone had spent time in their backseat) or risk a broken window. Tough call...also on the "list" was a sad story about a neighbor whose young pup ran into the street near Langford Park and was killed by a car. Gentle requests for slower driving along with a thought about creating a dog park nearby were offered by the owner. There is one in Lauderdale, but that might be something to look into for StAP. It's easy to think that even though not legal, Langford or College Park or Murray Field (almost completely fenced in,) are safe places to let your dog run off leash. This sad owner found out the hard way that pets react unpredictably, especially young ones. Lots of condolences were offered and I'll add mine...also some back and forth about parking for more than 48 hours on the street which is apparently illegal even if you have a permit to park in front of your house. Be careful, the city is trying to crack down on abandoned cars - get to know your neighbors so they don't report your car as being one.

D12 - There is a really excellent slate of candidates for the D12 board from both North and South StAP. Visit the website and read their bios, then vote on April 10 from 4-8pm at the library or the Hampden Park Co-op. Exercise an important and basic right, VOTE!...also sign up to help with the annual clean-up of Kasota Pond on Saturday, April 28...here's a good deal, drop off and recycle your cell phone, charger, batteries or printer cartridges at the D12 office in the SSA Rec Center and they will get a cash donation. I've got a boxful in my basement that's going over there next week...there's a Sustainable Communities Conference on March 24 & 25, check the D12 website for more info which includes word about fruit tree education in conjunction with Arbor Day...D12 is also looking for volunteers willing to help pack welcome kits for new neighbors. If you have a few hours, call Lauren at 649-5992.

StAPnotes - There's a sound level variance hearing set for University Ave April 24 at City Hall. It covers overnight noise levels from Emerald to Hamline much like the variance granted last fall near University & Hampden. Contact mark.kaisersatt@ci.stpaul.mn.us if you have any comments or questions...this Saturday, 2-4 at StAP library is the small plot gardening 101 workshop...the Raptor Center's Exec. Dir. Dr. Julie Ponder is back from a teaching trip to Taiwan sharing her expertise with counterparts over there.

That's all for now. Take good care of yourself and be a good neighbor.