In an attempt to curb gun violence and gang activity in St. Paul, Minnesota, the St. Paul Police Department announced a change in individual officer’s duties. The shift in focus is part of Police Chief Todd Axtell’s plan for his first year in office.
"Gun violence demands our full attention." Chief Axtell speaking to the St Paul City Council about gun violence this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/Fzci1GkG42
— Saint Paul Police Department (@sppdmn) June 28, 2017
“Gun violence mitigation is the primary objective of my office, and the priority has been shared with the entire department,” Axtell told the City Council on Wednesday. “Every investigative unit in the department is prioritizing these cases to better reflect the issue that we have at hand.”
Axtell moved two sergeants and five officers to the Gun and Gang Unit, in hopes of shortening the response time to gun-related incidents. The unit now has 26 dedicated officers. One of the unit’s three sergeants and two of its officers are also assigned to the ATF’s task force, where they investigate long-term cases, in hopes of eventually prosecuting the criminals under federal jurisdiction.
“Although these changes have taken resources from other department priorities, we must address gun violence head-on and certainly to the best of our ability,” Axtell told the Star Tribune.
As of now, the Gun and Gang Unit will respond to every report of shots fired. The Unit will also canvas neighborhoods to collect evidence and interview victims, suspects and witnesses in shooting cases.
St. Paul has seen a 62 percent increase in gun-related incidents over the last year. In 2017 alone, 701 reports of shots fired have been reported. There were 433 this time last year.
“When you take a look at the numbers, every one of those is a person — people being hurt and killed,” Council Member Dan Bostrom told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “It’s unconscionable. People need to be aware of it.”