St. Louis City has a problem. For too many people, their St. Louis Experience is one of violence and fear. That must change.

In 2016, 188 people were murdered in St. Louis City and over 2,000 people were shot. 
The homicide number represents nearly a 60% increase since 2013, which itself saw an increase since 2012.
We've had a problem for a long time and it's getting worse.

 

increased VIOLENCE

Homicides are up nearly 60 percent since 2013. The homicide total stood at 188 last year, and stood at 120 in 2013. There were 16 homicides in December 2016 compared to 8 in December 2015, which is a 100% increase. There were 174 aggregated assaults with a gun in Dec '16 versus 118 in Dec '15. That's a 47.5% increase.

13,000 VICTIMS

There have been more than 13,000 people shot, murdered, or robbed at gun point in just the last 5 years in the City of St. Louis. In 2016, there were 2,132 people shot in St. Louis City. In 2015, there were 2,092 people shot. These numbers represent lives forever changed.

neighborhoods plagued

Over the past decade, it has been the same neighborhoods that have been most plagued by violence and accounting for the majority of the city's homicides. These neighborhoods are made up of mostly poor, mostly black citizens and have been neglected for years by city government.

In 2013, the City of St. Louis regained control of its police department after 152 years of state-control. The state gained control over the police department in 1861 in a move aimed at thwarting Union sympathizers in St. Louis during the lead up to the Civil War. In November 2012, Missouri voters approved the return to local control. Kansas City’s police department is still controlled by a state board. [source]

“Local control will make our city better and safer for generations to come.”
— Mayor Francis Slay

Under local control, the police department is now under the control of the mayor, just like the Parks Department, the Health Department, SLATE, and others. One man now has control over all of these departments that have vital resources which could be used to improve the quality of life and reduce crime in neighborhoods. We have not, however, seen any level of coordination, cooperation, or information sharing with the goal of transforming communities. This is what we have been calling for since we first requested Mayor Slay develop a "comprehensive plan" to address rising violent crime in our city.

And so, on this website and using social media, Antonio has pulled together ideas to help St. Louis craft a truly comprehensive plan to fight violent crime and the conditions that lead to it. Antonio called on Mayor Slay and Chief Dotson to implement this plan. They have not. Absent of mayoral action, Antonio has fought at the Board of Aldermen and as Vice-Chairman of the Public Safety Committee to hold the mayor and the police chief accountable. But it is truly in the office of mayor that such a plan must be implemented. It is difficult to force a mayor to act if he doesn't want to. If elected mayor, Antonio has promised to reducing to the number of people murdered and shot annually in St. Louis City. If he fails, he won't seek re-election.

This is my promise to the people of St. Louis. If I’m unsuccessful at reducing the number of people shot and killed in our city each year, I won’t run for re-election as mayor. That’s how important fixing this problem is to the future of our city. And that’s how serious I am about fixing it.
— Antonio French

Our City has a problem. We must stop denying it for the sake of PR and civic cheerleading.

We must face the fact violence is destroying lives, ruining entire neighborhoods, and killing our city's hope of turning around 50 years of declining population.

At this April 24th, 2014 meeting of the Public Safety Committee Alderman French questions Chief Dotson about his use of statistics to hide rising violence in St. Louis.

The mayor and the chief of police have spent most of the last few years denying that we have a problem, even as the number of people being shot and killed climbed year after year.

Denial is not a good strategy to make our city safer. In fact, denial has made us less safe. It was these claims about "declining crime" that Slay and Dotson used to justify reducing the number of police officers in 2013 and 2014. Only to turn around in 2015 and then say we have too few cops. 

This is not a plan. This is not a strategy. This is reactionary politics. 

We must prioritize reducing violent crime 

In January 2014, Mayor Francis Slay and Police Chief Sam Dotson radically changed how police resources are allocated in the City of St. Louis. They eliminated 3 police districts, reducing the total number from 9 to 6. They promised that these changes would decrease crime in the city.

"Police Chief Sam Dotson pledges a reduction in crime through beefed-up “hot spot” policing, faster response times and better balanced workloads." — St. Louis Post-Dispatch 1/24/2014

Dotson reallocated the number of police officers based on calls for service, not necessarily based on the kinds of calls for service. That means that a neighborhood in a district in south St. Louis that gets a lot of 911 calls for car break-ins will likely have the same number of permanently assigned officers as a neighborhood in north St. Louis that experiences a lot of shootings and homicides.

And when shootings spike in an area, Chief Dotson relies on what he calls "Hot Spot" policing (others refer to it as "Wack-a-Mole" policing) where additional officers are deployed to an area for a short period. When shootings get out of hand in another neighborhood, they are pulled out of the first neighborhoods and sent to the new "Hot Spot".

The City of St. Louis is in a crisis. We must prioritize reducing violent crime in our city. Areas that are "Hot Spots" need more that just increased police for a 7 or 14-day period. They need sustained resources over an extended period. To do that, we must allocate our limited resources based on a philosophy that prioritizes reducing violent crime.

A few neighborhoods have accounted for much of the violent crime in last 10 years. Besides concentrated violence, these areas have been negatively effected by concentrated poverty, vacancy, and population decline.

This is where the fight is.

These target neighborhoods are not just "hot spots". These are the areas where our city's failures to adequately serve these communities over many years have created environments where crime and violence predictably occur in large numbers.

Many of these areas also have lower rates of calls for service than you would expect. Why? Because so many citizens have accepted the crime as "just the way it is around here" and because they have seen few positive results from calling 911. But even as these citizens may stop calling for 911 to report crime, they act in other ways, including moving from the neighborhood and the city altogether. Many of these neighborhoods have seen the highest rates of depopulation over the past two decades.

These neighborhoods is where the City of St. Louis will get the highest rate of return on the investment of city resources to lower crime. Not for a two-week "hot spot" period, but for a 12 to 18-month period. The goal: transform these communities to improve quality of life and lower crime and violence.

Concentrate Our Resources in Target Neighborhoods

Not just police. This must be a coordinated and comprehensive effort among several city departments and agencies.

  • Police Department promotes more officers to homicides detectives. Despite having one of the highest rates of murder per capita in America, the City of St. Louis only has 24 homicide detectives — while 68% of homicides go unsolved.
  • Police Department reallocates officers, assigning more officers to target areas. This should not be a 2-week "hot spot" assignment, but rather a long term (12-18 month) assignment.
  • Parks Department and Police Department assign full-time park rangers to large parks located in and around the target neighborhoods.
  • Forestry Division creates neighborhood crews responsible for keeping vacant lots, vacant buildings, tree lawns, and alleys clean. Trims trees in areas where drug dealers and prostitutes hang out.
  • Recreation Division offers (or contracts with non-profits to provide) daily after-school programming for children in target neighborhoods.
  • SLATE opens storefront job placement centers located in each target neighborhood.
  • Health Department begins to do door-to-door visits to inform citizens about programs available. Also organize one-day clinics at sites in the target neighborhoods to offer free eye exams and glasses, free STD testing, free dental care, etc.
  • SLDC develops -- with much public input -- economic development plans for these neighborhoods to attract businesses and stabilize housing prices with the goal of opening new businesses within 6 months. If the city is willing to mortgage city buildings to spark development in Paul McKee long-stalled project area, it's past time the city took as much interest in these neighborhoods.
  • LRA hires a firm to actively market and sell long-vacant buildings and lots.
  • LRA tears down several of the unsafe buildings it owns, which contribute to the low quality of life in the target neighborhoods.
  • Streets Department takes a look at traffic calming solutions in the target areas, including installing speed bumps and speed humps where needed.
 
 
It’s in their interest to root out folks who aren’t doing the right thing, to hold accountable people when they do something wrong, instead of just the closing-ranks approach that all too often we see that ends up just feeding greater frustration and ultimately, I think, putting more police officers in danger.
— President Barack Obama

Trust, cooperation, and respect between citizens and the police is vital to keeping the peace and making our communities safe for everyone. While this relationship has been strained for many years, the fact is that recent events have terribly fractured this relationship. Police are human beings. They are not perfect. They make mistakes. And some even break the law and do great harm to people. When that occurs, we must hold those officers accountable. Not only for the sake of justice and fairness, but to protect the mission. Allowing those acts—which sometimes result in the death of people, even kids sometimes—if allowed to go unpunished, make it more difficult for every other cop trying to do his and her job to the best of their ability. And it damages those critical relationships we all need to be there.

So how can we repair those relationships:

New leadership at the top. The City of St. Louis needs a new police chief. Sam Dotson has wasted too much of his political capital defending failed policies, denying that we have a crime problem, blaming prosecutors and judges, violating the civil rights of peaceful demonstrators, and defending the actions of "bad apples". The results are clear:

  • Dotson reduced the number of police officers, making us less safe.
  • Dotson eliminated 3 police districts and reassigned officers leaving the most violent areas undermanned.
  • Since Dotson became police chief, homicides and shootings have skyrocketed.

It's time for a fresh start and new leadership. We need a police chief that is better equipped to rebuild the broken trust and one who is more concerned with public safety than public relations.

A review of policies and laws covering police-involved shootings. The Board of Aldermen Public Safety Committee should form a subcommittee to review a two-year period of police-involved shootings since the police department came under the control of the City of St. Louis. This subcommittee should determine how existing department policies and city laws affects such cases and what, if anything, should be changed to improve the vital relationship between citizens and police. The subcommittee would then recommend those changes to the full Board, which can pass legislation to implement them.

An independent, effective Civilian Review Board. The City of St. Louis recently passed legislation that created a civilian oversight board. This board will not be fully formed until mid-to-late 2016. And its powers are less than many of us wanted to see. This issue should be revisited, making this board more independent of the mayor and able to receive all necessary information to do its job, including subpoena powers and the authority to question police officers.

Why is police accountability important to reducing violence in St. Louis?

Because we need strong partnerships between police and the people of these target communities. If police are seen as an occupying force, or if the department continues to perpetuate a "Them vs. Us" attitude, we will not be able to get witnesses to come forward, seniors will think twice about calling the police about suspicious behavior out of fear that she could be responsible for a young man being killed.

We need to repair this relationship. Lives depend on it—citizen and police officer alike. We need to get to a place again where community and police can stand together once again, unified against the criminals plaguing our city


Create, Expand and Fund
 Neighborhood Accountability Boards to:

  • Empower citizens to be involved in the justice system
  • Offer alternatives to jail for young offenders
 

A Neighborhood Accountability Board consists of four to seven members of the community who informally address juvenile delinquency matters. NAB offers offenders the opportunity to repair the harm caused by their offense and make a positive contribution to their own community.

How Neighborhood Accountability Boards Work in KC

 

Funding

Most of the things discussed here do not cost the City of St. Louis any additional dollars. It is more about prioritizing the living conditions in these target neighborhoods and allocating existing resources in a coordinated way, with a focus on reducing violence.

In other words, making these target neighborhoods as important to the future of St. Louis as downtown or the Central West End — because they are.

But for programs that do require some additional funding, there is nearly $1 million in the Public Safety Department budget under "professional services". These funds, which come from a sales tax increase approved by voters several years ago, can be allocated with the approval of the Board of Aldermen Public Safety Committee.

Additionally, there are funds in the Police Departments Asset Forfeiture Fund. Since the police department was reorganized under local control, these funds, totaling many hundreds of thousands of dollars, have been allocated solely at the discretion of Police Chief Sam Dotson. This should not be in the case. These funds should be allocated as part of the annual budget process and as part of this Comprehensive Plan.


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