ST. CLOUD -- There has been a spike in gun violence in recent months all across the country, and that includes here in St. Cloud as well. The city has had four murders already this year, which is the most we've had since 2015.  People have been arrested and charged in three of the four homicide investigations, while one remains unsolved.

This past weekend was particularly disturbing with the murder of Ed Ward as well as the shooting and fights that happened downtown.

Police Chief Blair Anderson says we have to find a way to keep bad people in the jails.

I think that most of the people, if not all of them, that we dealt with over the weekend and that we've arrested are on probation or parole.  We have to figure out a way to keep those folks in jail.

Anderson says in most instances the people involved know each other, however, that of course was not the case in the murder of Ed Ward on Sunday morning. He says the man charged in the murder, Jason Beckman, was not known to the local police department either which was particularly disturbing.

Those are things that are quite disturbing, but the good news is that we've got that individual in custody and hopefully he will stay in custody this time.

Anderson says, even before this recent spike in violent crime, his Assistant Chief Jeff Oxton had already convened a panel of county attorneys, judges, and even people from CentraCare to try to figure out a way of keeping the most violent offenders locked up.

As for the recent shootings in the downtown area, Anderson says bar close can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. But, he says they have some short-term solutions to try and curb the violence downtown.

I am not going to give those away, but you will see and you will notice, the community will notice, an increased presence down there and there are some other things that we are going to be doing.

Anderson says he feels he has the resources he needs and that in the nine years he's been the chief his budget has increased every year.

Anderson says one challenge is that while St. Cloud's population is about 70,000 there are up to 180,000 people in the city limits on any given day and that number is only going to grow.

Despite the stories in the news, Anderson says you still need to get out and enjoy the community.

Summertime By George kicks off tonight, and we've had a really rough year with the pandemic last year, I don't want people to be afraid to the point where they just lock themselves in their homes.

During Monday's meeting, city council member George Hontos requested that Chief Anderson give a presentation on crime numbers to the council at their next meeting coming up in July.

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