Gardner touts progress against crime, gets strong support at public meeting

MIDTOWN – After her legal challenges of recent months, Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner had a much easier time on Thursday night, when she appeared before an audience of about 100 supporters at a meeting at St. Louis University. 

The supporters in the Chaifetz School of Business auditorium cheered when Gardner said statistics showing a decline in crime since 2016 showed her reforms were working. They cheered again when speakers condemned legal challenges against her.

“Despite the rhetoric of fear and skepticism fostered by those who doubted my reform agenda, the reforms we have in place are working,” Gardner said.

Gardner said her office had a part in a 9 percent crime decrease for the year to date since 2016 and a total decrease in crime of 15 percent since 2015. Incarceration is also down, she said. 

“What makes those numbers so important is that incarceration is down as well,” Gardner said. “This data proves that we can’t arrest, convict and incarcerate our way to a more safe community. We must address crime at its source, and the people in my audience are doing just that.”

Gardner said she would continue her work to treat crime as a health crisis, addressing mental and economic problems first. She discussed how she had been elected to reduce violent crime and mass incarceration and help promote a fairer and safer criminal justice system.

“While there remains much work to be done, I am pleased with the progress we’ve had,” she said.  “I’m confident our programs are working.”

Some of the speakers at the meeting indicated that they thought Gardner was being targeted. 

 For eight months, a special prosecutor examined searchable files and documents in Gardner’s office to determine whether it ran afoul of the law in charges issued against then-Gov. Eric Greitens. A grand jury expired without issuing an indictment against Gardner. 

The grand jury had indicted William Tisaby, an investigator hired by Gardner, accusing him of lying during a deposition in the criminal case that was a factor in Greitens’ decision to resign last year. Gardner’s office charged Greitens with invasion of privacy for allegedly taking an unauthorized, compromising photo of a woman during an affair in 2015. The charge was later dropped.

The indictment of Tisaby raised concern about Gardner’s potential complicity, but the grand jury disbanded recently without issuing a second indictment.

“We have always looked at justice with a crooked eye,” said  Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis NAACP. 

“The scales of justice have never been as balanced as they are today,” Pruitt said. “They’re not going to let them take it away.”

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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