Crime is down in the city, but St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden said he is focusing on all of the concerns facing the department. Those include building community relationships, proper handling of protests, racial sensitivity, and police accountability.
“We’re going to be an accountable, transparent department and we’re going to work hard,” he said at a sparsely attended Town Hall meeting Wednesday night at Forest Park Community College.
The chief said he acknowledges that some protest strategies were inconsistent with best practices, but the department’s goal now is to preserve constitutional rights while maintaining public safety. Hayden said the civil disobedience commander will also receive additional training to better deal with protests in the future.
As for police accountability, Hayden told the small audience, “the message is clear that abuse of authority will not be tolerated,” pointing to the recent indictment of four white police officers who beat a black undercover officer during protests last year following the acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley.
Hayden said that department had contacted the FBI for assistance in the investigation of the four officers and worked closely with Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, who prosecuted the Stockley case and attended Wednesday’s town hall meeting.
“We want to gain your full confidence that we’re going to change things,” Hayden said, adding that racial training will also be implemented.
To forge better relationships with the community, the department has collaborated with organizations like The St. Louis Clergy Coalition, Better Family Life, and The Urban League’s Save Our Sons program. Hayben said he also has officers from North Patrol regularly walking a few blocks in the 4th Ward to introduce themselves to residents.
The chief said the department has been collaborating with other law enforcement agencies and task forces to target specific areas and crimes in identified high crime areas.
According to Chief Hayden, the recent drop in crime is, in part, because of the department’s concentration on a specific rectangle of streets. “Hayden’s Rectangle” is bordered by Goodfellow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Vandeventer, and West Florissant. That area is responsible for 67 percent of crimes the city, he said.
Along with more surveillance, an additional 23 cameras and license plate readers have also been installed to help in the fight against crime.
While carjackings only dropped one percent, 37 carjacked vehicles were recovered and 168 stolen cars recovered.
There were 102 firearms recovered and 81 arrests with felony drug seizures. According to Hayden, 50 percent of homicides in the city are drug-related.
Homicides are usually personal and 80 percent of victims are known by or related to victims, according to the FBI, while 35 percent are a personal vendetta and 15 percent domestic.
Citywide, there have been 23 less homicides than at this time last year. Robberies are down 22 percent and assaults, including those with guns, saw an 18 percent drop.
“I will always focus on violent crimes,” Hayden said. “They traumatize people and keep them up at night.”