It’s been a good first six months on the job for St. Louis Metropolitan Police chief Sam Dotson when it comes to crime numbers.
Compared to the same period last year, overall crime in the city is down more than 7 percent in the first half of 2013. Crimes against persons, like homicides and assaults, are down 20 percent. And most crimes are trending well below five-year averages, though Dotson says he is concerned about an uptick in burglaries in recent weeks.
Dotson says the numbers show that his decision to make so-called "hot-spot policing" the norm was a good one. Watching the crime numbers allows the department to respond more quickly to spikes in crime, he said, but in the future it could also stop flare-ups from happening.
"What we’re going to also try to do is to introduce a predictive factor to it," he said. "That over the summer months, these areas become hot, we should focus on those. In the fall, this area becomes hot, historically."
Dotson says he expects crime to drop even further over the second half of the year, thanks to a recent federal and state effort that led to the arrest of more than 200 people, many of whom had criminal records.
But despite the upbeat crime numbers, Dotson says the city still struggles with a perception problem, fueled by rankings of violence he says don’t compare apples to apples.
"It’s really unfair to compare the city of St. Louis, which is just the urban core, 62 square miles, to places like Kansas City, which is over 300 square miles, which has an urban core, a suburban area, and a rural area."
Dotson presented the crime numbers at this morning's meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners. Also today, the board:
- Learned that construction work has begun on the new police headquarters building at 1915 Olive St., with a projected move-in date of April 2014. That would be a year and a half behind schedule.
- Passed some changes to the department rules that are needed for the transition to local control in September.
- Tabled a discussion about changes to the department's uniform regulations. One member of the board, Col. Erwin Switzer, had wanted a religious exemption for skullcaps.
- Selected a new company, EB Jacobs, to administer the the tests for promotions to be made between January 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. The move may not be enough to alleviate the concerns of the Ethical Society of Police, who want to see a test that gives more weight to the written portion.
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