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Crime summit with governor leaves out prosecutors

CITY HALL – Missouri Gov. Mike Parson met behind closed doors at the mayor’s office Tuesday with federal, county and city offices to talk about how to battle violent crime in St. Louis.

But one key elected official was out in the cold without an invitation: Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner.

“She is an integral part of the local criminal justice system,” Mayor Lyda Krewson told reporters in a news conference after the meeting. “This was about folks that can bring resources to the table today.”

The mayor said she’d talked the day before with Gardner by phone about processing tickets the state Highway Patrol might issue in the city.

Gardner wasn’t so easily convinced that she didn’t need to be at the meeting. Her office put out a news release Wednesday blasting the idea that the crime summit didn’t include her or St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell.

There is a clear and concerted effort to isolate the two reform-minded elected prosecutors in our region,” the release said. “Why is that? Is it because we think differently about the way we should address long-term crime reduction?”

It was a major bump in a meeting in which Parson, Krewson and County Executive Sam Page pledged to offer their resources to battle the problem. 

Items on the table included providing the needed personnel, equipment and technology to fight the kind of crime the city has seen this summer, Krewson said.

“In 10 days from now, we’re going to walk out in front of you and tell you exactly what we plan to do and how we’re going to execute it,” Parson said. 

Manpower will be critically important, Parson said. “What can we do for boots on the ground to stop the violent crime as quickly as we possibly can? There’s a lot of things going on right now, but we can do better.”

The leaders talked about strike forces, teaming up with federal prosecutors and others, Parson said. 

Parson said the state legislature probably would discuss new gun laws to deal with violent crime during its session in January. But he wouldn’t say what he might support, except that he would oppose anything that would violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms. And he wouldn’t say whether he wouldn’t favor gun permits in cities.

“That legislative body represents close to six million people,” Parson said. “They all should have a say in whether we’re going to change the gun laws of this state, and that’s what I firmly believe.”

Asked why it had taken so long to have a meeting, Krewson said that there had been numerous meetings and phone calls but that, “This is a meeting that came together to really figure out what the resources are.”

Page said the problems would take a regional approach to solve.

“St. Louis County is committed to participating with our state partners, our federal partners, our federal partners,” Page said. “We recognize that crime impacts some of our less prosperous neighborhoods more than others, and we recognize that crime is particularly impactful on communities of color.”

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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