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Emails show St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter says 'no' to ShotSpotter technology

Updated: November 19, 2019 10:11 PM

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS obtained a string of emails between St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell that shows the mayor opposes the purchase and use of ShotSpotter technology.

In the emails, Axtell uses multiple examples of cities that use and benefit from ShotSpotter computer software, but Carter responded to those emails with evidence of his own suggesting the technology has not worked to reduce gun violence on some of the cities which use it.

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In one exchange, Carter said to Axtell, "I appreciate your desperation to identify every tool to reduce and eliminate gun violence in our city. The ShotSpotter sales pitch was certainly impressive, but it's still a sales pitch. I'm going to push past anecdote/rhetoric and sales gimmicks to invest in innovative approaches that are backed by data and evidence."

Axtell replied, "This is not an approach from a place of desperation. It is my recommendation based on my experience as the Chief of Police and 31-year police officer. I certainly don't take this personally, but if you will not support ShotSpotter and my efforts to make it affordable to our city, I will abandon this idea and move on."

In that same set of emails, Axtell let Carter know the state of Minnesota, through the Department of Public Safety, is willing to give St. Paul a $500,000 grant to help pay for the ShotSpotter technology, which Axtell estimated to cost $750,000.

ShotSpotter notifies officers within 30 seconds of a shooting and gives them a precise location. St. Paul was considering a test run with the technology in a three-square-mile area in the Frogtown area and east side.

Dai Thao represents the Frogtown area on the St. Paul City Council. He told KSTP he was disappointed the mayor does not want to explore even a test run of ShotSpotter.

"These are very important decisions for the safety of our neighborhoods," Thao said. "We should try it for a year or two, and if the data shows it doesn't reduce gun violence, we can just turn it off."

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher also told KSTP he supported Axtell's efforts to bring ShotSpotter technology to St. Paul and use state grant money to do it.

"This makes sense from a law enforcement perspective and a financial perspective," said Fletcher. "ShotSpotter will help us get to the exact location of a shooter in 30 seconds instead of two to three minutes and we will catch more of the people who are firing these guns, too."

A spokesperson with Carter's office said the mayor was unavailable for an interview but did issue a statement to KSTP that indicates the mayor will talk about this issue when he presents his supplemental budget to the City Council Wednesday afternoon.

"Tomorrow Mayor Carter will address the City Council directly, proposing over a million dollars of annual public safety investments rooted in data and evidence to end the cycles of violence that have afflicted our city for far too long," the spokesperson said.

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Credits

Jay Kolls

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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