How St. Paul police are working to get guns off the streets

It’s been a deadly year in St. Paul with 29 homicides plus one police shooting – which is nearly double the number of homicides last year. St. Paul police tell us they are working to get guns off the streets, and recently, they allowed our cameras to get a first-hand look at how they are getting that done.

The St. Paul Police Department is obviously taking these recent shootings and killings very seriously; they’ve put additional resources into the cases and they’re also using technology.

There’s been no shortage of crime scene tape around St. Paul this year.

"It’s frustrating that people continue to use guns in this city to solve their problems," police spokesperson Steve Linders told us after a shooting on November 1.

In fact, St. Paul police say 26 of the city’s 29 homicides have involved guns and there’s been an increased effort to make sure those guns get off the streets.

"We’re out here two shifts a day we have a lot of people working on these crimes," said St. Paul Police Commander Ken Sass.

Ken Sass is the commander of the department’s Gang and Gun Unit.

"It’s really shocking to see the number of gun crimes and gun violence that really is going on," said Sass.

Their focus, quite simply, is on gangs and guns and tracking down links between the two. Police believe more than half of the shootings in St. Paul this year are gang-related. In response, the unit has grown.

"Our afternoon shift was increased by one sergeant and eight officers which essentially doubled that shift," said Sass.

And they have a lot on their plate right now, working tips, tracking suspects, and gathering information.

"They follow up on every lead that they can because the next morning when an investigator gets that case it’s hopefully put together for them," said Sass. "Almost to the point they can either present the case for charging or they have some really solid leads to go on the next day."

One of the tools they're using is reviewing casings, which are like a gun's fingerprints.

"We’re using NIBIN technology to connect guns and gun crimes where we may have a shots fired [call] and all we recover are casings on the ground and those are turned in and processed," explained Sass.

The NIBIN database was developed 20 years ago by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and explosives to connect a gun used in one crime to others.

"Not only the technology is getting better, but the database is getting better meaning there’s more information in it," said ATF Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Jonathan Ortiz.

Ortiz is from St. Paul and taking the work alongside the St. Paul Police Department personally.

"This is my city, this is where I live. This is where I grew up," Ortiz said.

ATF investigators are continuing to provide manpower in this fight. The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office are also assisting.

"We’re going to be investigating people we’re going to be making arrests and we’re going to be kicking in doors," Ortiz added.

And the law enforcers want people to know they’re out there.

"If you’re a person who decides you’re going to go out there and victimize people in our communities with a firearm at some point we’re going to come across each other, bottom line," said Ortiz.

The St. Paul Police Department does their job to try to solve these cases. They also depend on help from the public. If you have any information on any of the unsolved shootings, contact the St. Paul Police Department.