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City “should be embarrassed” about level of violence

HAMILTON HEIGHTS — James Clark, vice president of Better Family Life, shared his thoughts with The NorthSider on what it would take for the organization to ramp up its violence de-escalation efforts in the city.  

The organization, which boasts a 33 percent reduction in homicides from its efforts and earned more than $12 million in 2016 from donations, grants, and program fees, has been lauded in St. Louis for its violence reduction campaigns.  

“It started organically,” Clark said during an exclusive interview with The NorthSider. “We started a yard sign campaign and the yard sign simply read ‘We must stop killing each other.’” 

Clark, who sat down with The NorthSider‘s Charles Jaco for an episode of “The Jaco Report” (available at, said the City of St. Louis is too focused on building the city’s physical assets and not focused on helping the people of the city. 

“We, for some reason, want to focus on brick and mortar projects,” said Clark. “We want to focus on getting a (sports) team. We want to focus on downtown development.  We need to begin to focus on the human capital.” 

Clark asserted that community organizations such as Better Family Life are the missing ingredient in reducing violence in St. Louis and other cities across the country. The organization has received national accolades, and Clark received an award for his work in community involvement from the U.S. Department of Justice. According to Clark, the program, which is under evaluation at Washington University, has been effective in 91 percent of their attempts to de-escalate situations involving guns.  

Despite the success of their efforts, Clark warns that the program would need more man-power and more money to continue its successes in the community.  

“We are going to work to grow the staff because right now our staff is at capacity,” said Clark, continuing, “We are working for the day we have 50 men and women working to de-escalate conflict. That is the force we have to put out to effectively move the needle.”

When asked just how much more money the organization would need, Clark estimated it would take more than a million dollars. 

“That would be about a $1.5 million operation,” he said. 

Joy Leopold

Joy Leopold is a visiting assistant professor in Webster University's School of Communication. She graduated from the University of Miami with a PhD in Journalism and Media Management.

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