St. Paul police chief: 'public health crisis' on gun violence

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell in April 2017.
Richard Marshall for MPR News file

The city of St. Paul is responding to a wave of violence that has plagued the city in the first half of this year. So far, St. Paul has recorded 13 homicides in 2017. The total number of homicides for all of last year was 19.

Police report there's also been a 62 percent increase in shots fired this year compared to 2016. And more than 80 people have been injured by gun violence.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell addressed the City Council about those rising numbers last week. In doing so, he called it a "public health crisis."

He also spoke with MPR's Mike Moen about what police are doing to prevent more violence.

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Here are some of the ways Axtell said St. Paul police are responding to gun violence:

• The department no longer writes accident reports for fender benders. Officials hope that gives officers more time to respond to calls of shots fired.

• Two police sergeants and five officers have been added to the gang unit.

• More engagement with affected neighborhoods, while trying to get victims and witnesses to provide more information about incidents.

• Increased communication with prosecutors to identify past criminals who might commit additional crimes in the future.

Correction (Oct. 24, 2017): An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the number of homicides last year in St. Paul.