By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — St. Paul saw its 33rd homicide of the year Monday night after a man sitting in a car outside a gas station in the North End neighborhood was found shot to death.

The city is just one homicide shy of the highest total of murders ever.

Although the increase in gun violence has been significant, so have the number of those arrested in connection to the violence. Sgt. Mike Ernster says charges have been filed in 29 of this year’s 33 homicides. Investigators are canvasing neighborhoods, questioning witnesses and using video to solve the near record-breaking shootings plaguing the city.

“They are out there to purely find what the circumstances were and the facts to support those circumstances to point to somebody who’s responsible for these crimes,” Ernster said.

But it’s the relationship with community that is key to getting ahead of the violence. The God Squad’s Rev. Darryl Spence believes the number of shooting deaths would be higher if not for the work of community groups like his and The Truth Center.

“We’re working hand in hand with law enforcement. As your community leaders, we want to show you better than we can tell you,” Spence said. “A place where young folks can come, and if they’re having a beef before they pull the trigger, let’s try and squash it. Let’s try, because it we don’t stop it this year, we’ll be pushing 34 next year, we’ll probably be double.”

RELATED: St. Paul PD Investigating After Bullet Shot Into Bedroom Where Baby, Toddler Were Sleeping

Micki Lewis, founder of The Truth Center, posts pictures of all the young lives lost to gun violence.

“What we use this wall for is to let them know that their loved on who they lost can continue to live on through us here at The Truce Center,” Lewis said. “A lot of them look at this wall and, you know, see a friend and realize that maybe I should second think some of the things that I’m doing so that I don’t end up making this wall.”

Spence says that lesson is imperative for the youth.

“We are family. Together we will be better. Separated, nothing happens but death and destruction,” Spence said.

A family that includes law enforcement and their efforts to get guns off the street.

“We always ask if anyone knows anyone carrying guns illegally in the city of St. Paul, call us so that we can get out there and get ahead of this and get that gun off the street,” Ernster said.

St. Paul police added officers to its gang and gun unit to help support its homicide unit. That, plus running its own internal test fire range, allows investigators to test recovered guns faster to see if they’re connected to other crimes.

Reg Chapman