A north side alderman is being criticized for his call for a military presence in the streets of St. Louis to address the high rate of violence.
Over the weekend, Brandon Bosley, a freshman alderman who represents the 3rd Ward, shocked many by calling on Missouri Governor Mike Parson to send the National Guard to patrol the streets of St. Louis City. “We’re going to have tanks on every damn corner,” Bosley told the Post-Dispatch. “These people have to know we’re not playing anymore.”
Deploying the National Guard to combat the high rate of gun violence in north St. Louis is “unacceptable,” said Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards in a statement to The NorthSider.
“While I understand Alderman Bosley’s frustration about the crime in his Third Ward, I strongly disagree with the militarization of north St. Louis City,” said Edwards. “The deployment of the National Guard to address domestic disputes, road rage, personal feuds and street level drug crimes and the like is unacceptable.”
His plan, he said, “includes holding violent felony offenders accountable, increasing the levels of public participation in order to enhance law enforcement, show compassion to low level offenders when warranted, and invest in public safety tools and strategies in order to improve investigations and prosecution of suspects.”
Judge Edwards also hammered home confidence in local law enforcement and compassion for surviving family members.
“I am very sorry for the homicides in the city and justice for victims’ families and friends is always on my mind,” he wrote. “I believe that the St. Louis Police Department, in partnership with state and federal law enforcement agencies, is making strides in reducing violent crime, including homicide in the city. Many of my efforts have been to promote positive relations between the police and minority and marginalized communities.”
Alderman Bosley, who was up in arms over shootings in his neighborhood, painted a different picture regarding safety.
On Saturday, he voiced his frustrations on Facebook. “It’s so painful to do the best you can to try to clean up your community and watch your people burn it to the ground!! There is so much death around us,” Bosley wrote, adding the hashtag #thisisnotnormal.
The following day he posted a warning:
“There could be a possible war going on tonight between the fourth and fifth district in the 3rd Ward. The areas are around 20th and Desoto and 20th and Ferry. If you don’t have to be out tonight, will probably be best to stay in. We have spoken to the necessary departments to help out tonight and the police are aware. As we all know, bullets don’t have a name, if you don’t need to be out, stay in. If you hear gunshots please call the police promptly.”
He posted a similar message on the social network NextDoor.
While the young alderman’s frustrations are understandable to some community leaders, many disagree with his call for the National Guard’s presence.
“I don’t think that that’s a solution,” said James Clark from Better Family Life. He agrees that there is an urgent need to stop gun-violence in north Louis, but Clark says it is African-Americans who must stop it.
“No one is going to come into the African American community, because the police can’t stop it, an elected official can’t stop it, a principal at a school—they all work hard, but it’s a culture, a behavior that we’ve got to control,” Clark told The NorthSider.
For his part in the fight against gun-violence, he is beefing up and offering up his deployment of de-escalation centers as an offense. The centers, located in an area called “Hayden’s Rectangle” (named after City Police Chief John Hayden and includes some of the most violent areas of the city), will be housed in churches in north and west St. Louis.
According to Clark, who is canvassing aggressively, 50 area churches have agreed, half of the 100-church goal.
Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed has been pushing for St. Louis to adopt programs that have proved successful in other cities, such as Project Safe Neighborhoods in East St. Louis and Cure Violence in New Orleans.
“We need to take action,” Reed posted on Twitter Tuesday. “I will not stop pushing for Ceasefire/Cure Violence in #STL. If we want to see a dramatic drop in crime, we must invest in a program that works now.”
Cure Violence promotes a public health and science-based perspective, fighting violence as we fight deadly disease epidemics, like HIV or tuberculosis. PSN unites law enforcement and courts with community leaders to concentrate solely on gun violence and its contributors.
As recently as November 2018, according to the Pew Research Center, St. Louis has had the nation’s highest “big city” murder rate every year since 2014. According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, 22 people have been killed in north St. Louis in 2019 as of this week.