St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell told the media this week that detectives in the homicide and special investigations units are “absolutely exhausted” and said he’s reaching out to the FBI for help in tackling the record homicide rates.
Axtell was reportedly scheduled to meet with U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald and federal law enforcement colleagues Thursday after the city experienced its 28th homicide Wednesday afternoon—the most in at least a decade. Unless something changes, St. Paul will likely break the 1992 all-time record of 34 homicides.
“I am moving six more officers into the homicide unit and we are working closer with federal investigators, too,” he said. “We have a BCA agent, as well, who is working on collecting DNA samples just from gun crimes alone.”
Axtell revealed in an interview with WCCO that each homicide requires 30 to 40 officers and costs the city $25,000 in overtime pay.
“We need help from family members and friends, people who have relatives or friends that are carrying guns illegally to notify the police department of those activities,” Axtell pleaded. “It could save the person’s life.”
He told the Pioneer Press the “common denominator” across all homicides is “guns in the hands of the wrong people using them to settle disputes over gang issues and narcotics, predominantly.” In an interview with The Star Tribune, he said more than half the city’s homicides have been gang-related.
“Most of the gun violence occurring in our city is at the hands of younger people involved in gangs and groups settling their disputes with those guns,” he said.
“The record number of homicides isn’t what keeps me up at night,” Axtell added. “It’s the thought of another family being ripped apart by gun violence.”
MacDonald said before Thursday’s meeting that she has already assigned two federal prosecutors to build cases against those involved in gun-related crimes.
“It gets frustrating and my heart does drop when it happens,” Axtell concluded. “My heart drops for the community because there is a sense of uneasiness about safety and my heart drops for the officers in this department who are doing all they can to combat this problem.”
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter will host the first of three community meetings on public safety Thursday night in response to the rising homicides rates. His office said in a press release that he’s considering proposing a supplemental public safety budget to the St. Paul City Council. The 2020 budget Carter presented to the council earlier this year proposed cutting five officer positions in the police department.
A recent report alleged that Carter abandoned an effort to partner with the National Network for Safe Communities to help reduce gun violence, but Axtell declined to address the topic while making the media rounds Wednesday.
“We will never accept violence as the norm,” Carter said. “Building the safe city we deserve will require new, proactive approaches to public safety, which must be built together.”
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