St. Paul launches new way to fight crime in the city

St. Paul city leaders are debuting the Community First Public Safety Commission
St. Paul Police
St. Paul Police Car Photo credit (Getty Images / Stephen Maturen / Stringer)

St. Paul city leaders are launching the Community First Public Safety Commission Tuesday, aimed at finding long-term, alternative ways to fighting crime in the city.

The forty-member group involves the mayor's office, police department, city council, and community non-profits.

Police Chief Todd Axtell says one option may be to re-think how the department responds to lower-level 911 calls.

"It's important to note that priority calls can include anything from an aggravated assault to where a suspect is not on scene, all the way to a barking dog," Axtell said. "So certainly not all, but some of those calls could be handled by people other than sworn police officers."

Mayor Melvin Carter says the goal is to lighten the load of police officers so they are available to respond to higher-priority calls. Carter says the commission will not be "flipping a switch" on the way the city handles crime, but will be tasked with charting a long-term course for the future.

Like many other cities this year, including Minneapolis, St. Paul has seen an exponential increase in crime.