DOWNTOWN – The Missouri State Highway Patrol has pulled up on St. Louis city. The question is, will their presence on highways deliver on the promise of more city officers in the neighborhoods and a corresponding drop in crime?
That’s Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s immediate goal as he offers personnel in an effort to address the high number of child shooting deaths in the city of St. Louis this summer.
The state troopers are patrolling highways here, including I-70, which is nearest to city police Chief John Hayden’s so-called “rectangle” where the city police says they’ve focused crime-fighting resources. It outlines the area in the city with the highest rates of violent crimes.
The effort is meant to free up police officers who would otherwise be patrolling the interstate highways here.
“Hogwash,” was the immediate response from Percy Smith, who lives within “Hayden’s Rectangle.” “You mean it’s really that many police officers patrolling the highways?”
Nearly 25 troopers have been dispatched to the city in an effort to help curb gun violence here, but the move is meeting skepticism.
“It will absolutely make no difference whatsoever,” Smith said. “It’s just something to appease the people and try to make us think that they are trying to do something.
“Nobody can know when a crime is going to happen unless you are some kind of mind reader or have a crystal ball,” Smith continued.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department does have in place a Real Time Crime Center and Gun Crime Intelligence Center, which includes real-time tracking of gunshots.
“We need every possible idea and solution that we can muster, because these killings have to stop,” said Kenneth Moore, who also lives in the concentrated high crime area.
“I’m all for the state troopers coming back,” Moore said, who said that he had yet to see more police presence.
City of St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards has said that he is all for the troopers’ patrolling the highways.
“It’s our tax dollars too,” Edwards said at a town mall Meeting at Harris-Stowe State University in August.
Mayor Lyda Krewson, who attended and spoke at the town hall and met with the governor in a city hall “crime summit,” said she would also like to see St. Louis require a concealed carry permit.
After not being invited to the initial crime summit, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner later met with the governor to discuss the city’s violence issues. She said in a letter posted on her Facebook page that she appreciated the governor’s offering to collaborate in the fight against crime.
However, in the post she said that “one of the most effective ways to seriously address crime is to be more strategic in our approach and address it as the public health crisis it is. Doing things the same way we always have, is not to solve our crime problem.”
She then cited two main things she said could be done to reduce violent crime right now.
“We need to deploy more strategic resources to help investigate unsolved violent crime such as murders and gun violence” and “provide necessary resources to crime victims and witnesses to stop the cycle of violence that fuels in our streets.”
Research, she continued, indicates that many victims and witnesses become future offenders because of the trauma that they experienced.
“People who are hurting, hurt other people,” she wrote, calling for more victim and witness protection, counseling, social services, intervention and mental health services.
“We have seen important progress in the services we have offered to date, with our limited resources. There is so much to do,” she wrote.
She also asked for more funding for expansion of the Crime Strategies Unit, which she said could solve more crimes and better hold crime drivers accountable.
Gardner described the unit as very proficient, explaining that it had the ability to address and solve complex crimes, such as multi-count, multi-defendant MetroLink robberies.
She also requested funds for the forming of a Crime Intervention Unit.
“A CIU would enable us to work more closely with police, the Real Time Crime Center and with CSU data and technology to solve more complex crimes and remove the people from the streets who are creating the most violence.”