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State sending troopers to help fight St. Louis crime

DOWNTOWN – Gov. Mike Parson announced on Thursday a wide-reaching plan to use state resources to ease the epidemic of violence in St. Louis.

In a news conference at his ninth-floor office at the state’s Wainwright Building downtown, Parson said that starting Oct. 1, he will allocate 25 state law enforcement personnel to support task forces and other operations.

He made the announcement at the end of a day in which he met with various state, local and federal leaders, as well as leaders of community organizations. The meeting also came after a recent summit held with city and county officials and Parson at the office of Mayor Lyda Krewson. Parson promised to come back.

“As your governor and a former law enforcement officer for 22 years, protecting the citizens of our state is of utmost importance to my administration. We know we have a serious problem with violent crime that must be addressed,” Parson said. “After meeting with leaders and organizations at all levels over the past months, we have rolled up our sleeves, gotten to work, and identified the immediate actions we at the state level can take to help get violent criminals off our streets.”

The announcement pleased Krewson.

“It gives us more support than we had yesterday,” she said.

The surge in state support will include the assignment of two state troopers to the strike force of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That will help fight firearms, explosives, arson, alcohol and tobacco crimes.

The state will assign two troopers to the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force and two state troopers and one cyberanalyst to the Mission SAVE (Strike Against Violence Early) Task Force. Mission SAVE fights the most violent criminals and does long-term drug investigations connected to organized crime and gang activity.

Also, the Missouri State Highway Patrol will add four to six troopers to “surge” interstates throughout the city.  They will focus on catching violent criminals and freeing up St. Louis police officers for duty elsewhere.

The state also will assign two more investigators to a partnership between the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to help with federal-level gun and drug cases.

Parson said the state had about $2 million available through its Victims of the Crime Act for Victim Service Days. Also, state probation and parole officials are working with city police to improve supervision of violent offenders.

The governor also noted that the city and county police had made major improvements in MetroLink coverage and such programs as license plate readers and cameras.

“None of us, no matter where we’re from, wants to see our children being shot in the streets. That’s not who we are in the state,” Parson said. “It’s about protecting our children. It’s about protecting our communities. The only way we can do that is by working together.”

In the same news conference, Krewson thanked the governor and spoke about various city initiatives, including a jobs program that employed about 1,000 young people this summer. She also noted that the city had allocated a total of $2 million for alternative anti-violence programs, mainly Cure Violence.

Krewson announced that she had signed an order establishing the cabinet-level position of Children, Youth and Families. The director will be Wilford Pinkney Jr., who has led the city’s bail reform initiative for the past year.

The position will help us ensure the positive development of children and families by creating an action plan for children and families, Pinkney said.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, who also met with the governor on Thursday, said that the county recognized that this was a regional problem.

Parson’s plan “addresses crime head on but also addresses some of the challenges in our community that lead to crime but also some of the needs of our victims,” Page said. “This is going to make a read difference, and we’re happy to have the governor’s support.”

After meeting with the governor on Thursday, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said she was pleased with his response.

“Today, I and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system had a productive conversation about how to address the chronic violent crime St. Louis has been plagued with for more than four decades,” Gardner said. “I appreciate the invitation from Gov. Parsons to collaborate on these important issues. While it’s no comfort to those who have been victims of violence, I believe we are making progress.”

Gardner said there was a need to investigate unsolved violent crimes and to provide resources to crime victims and witnesses. She’d also like money for a crime intervention unit to solve more complicated crimes and remove the most violent people from the street.

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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