ST. LOUIS – South side residents attending a public meeting on crime on Tuesday heard that Mayor Lyda Krewson is taking steps to make things harder on lawbreakers.
Krewson said she had issued an executive order lifting the residency requirement for 50 new police officers. Officials have said that requirement for the whole department has led to a shortage of qualified applicants for police positions. Krewson said the current shortfall was 135 police officers.
Krewson’s announcement in a talk at the start of the South Patrol Division Community Gathering at Bishop DuBourg High School, 5850 Eichelberger Street, was met with loud applause.
The mayor said she thought her decision would be controversial. “What I’d like to do is fight residency requirements for all city employees,” she said.
“We can’t hire tree cutters to save our lives,” Krewson said. But this is more serious, she noted.
She spoke favorably of a bill going through the Board of Aldermen that would put a charter change on the ballot to lift the residency requirement. Fourteenth Ward Alderwoman Carol Howard is the sponsor.
One opponent of Krewson’s order who attended the meeting was 12th Ward Alderman Larry Arnowitz.
“You either lift it for everybody, or you wait until it’s put on the ballot,” Arnowitz said. “You’ve got to be fair and have more accountability that way.”
Krewson also spoke about the recent spate of children getting killed in shootings.
“It’s unbearable, terrible,” Krewson said. “We cannot accept that as normal, because it is not.”
Krewson said it was awful when somebody fired a weapon in the direction of a child. If she had her way, the state would at least require a gun permit, instead of allowing people to carry without a permit.
“Too many settle their differences with a gun,” Krewson said.
One of the main problems now, Krewson said, is the lack of sufficient officers. She’s one of many who say the city’s residency requirement makes it hard to get enough qualified candidates.
“It won’t be the be all and end all. But it is one thing,” Krewson said.
After Krewson left, Second District Captain Michael Deeba and First District Captain Donnell Moore reported improvement in crime statistics in the division from last year to this.
The two reported an 8.1 percent decrease in total crime in the South Patrol Division for the year through July 21.
The First District’s boundaries generally are Chippewa Street, Hampton Avenue, the city limits and the Mississippi River. The Second District boundaries generally are Hampton, Chippewa, Grand Boulevard, Interstate 64, Kingshighway Boulevard, Lindell Boulevard and the city limits. The district headquarters is at 3157 Sublette Avenue.
The two said homicide was down 45 percent, while total aggravated assault was down 3.5 percent.
A total of 5,478 calls for disturbances consumed the greatest amount of police time for the year to date, followed by 2,745 domestic disturbances. Police investigated 2,928 accidents, issued 3,221 traffic violations and made 11,932 building checks.
Commenting on the residency issue, Moore said, “If you want to be an officer in the city of St. Louis, I don’t care where you come from.”
The two captains said police would issue tickets for fireworks. They encouraged people to support the effort by placing a red light bulb on their porches.
One official, 23rd Ward Alderman Joe Vaccaro, said the biggest complaint he got was for speeding. Car break-ins also are a big concern, he said. He suggested that people shouldn’t keep items in their cars.