St. Louis’ crime issue is now the state’s issue, too. At least, that’s what Gov. Eric Greitens indicated Monday when he announced a plan to direct state money and personnel toward the city.
The Republican’s proposal has the support of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, but other elected Democrats are skeptical that it addresses the root causes of the violence. Greitens did not detail how much money the state would spend for these efforts.
The governor unveiled his multifaceted plan in a parking lot near St. Louis’ Baden neighborhood, which has seen a more than 13 percent increase in violent and property crime this year compared to 2016.
“For too long, people have believed there’s nothing that can be done,” Greitens said. “Other cities have solved this problem. We can also solve this problem in the city of St. Louis. People are counting on us to get this right and save lives.”
Part of the proposal involves the Missouri Highway Patrol assisting local law enforcement officials on the city’s interstates, especially when it comes to drug trafficking. Krewson said that was needed.
“There’s way too much speed, way too many guns and way too much drugs on our highways,” she said.
According to a news release from Greitens’ office, the Department of Public Safety is assigning “resources to the FBI and the DEA to ensure effective investigations and apprehensions of the region’s most violent offenders.” He also will send trauma counselors from the Missouri Department of Social Services in St. Louis Public Schools, and the Department of Mental Health will increase “crisis intervention training for law enforcement officers as a de-esclation tactic to reduce potential violent confrontations.”
Krewson said: “I welcome any and all new resources to reduce the senseless acts of violence that are all too common here in our city.”
Some Democratic officials, such as state Rep. Joshua Peters, questioned whether Greitens’ plan would actually clamp down on the violence. The St. Louis-based lawmaker has said the drug trade is fueling much of the problems.
“Once more Governor Greitens is using photo ops in place of real solutions to the problems we face in Missouri,” Peters said in a statement. “These officers would be welcome if they were interdicting the many addicts from St. Louis County, St. Charles and Jefferson County which come to St. Louis and fuel the drug sales and gang violence. But as long as they drive the speed limit I don’t know how Greitens’ folly accomplishes anything.”
And a group of demonstrators over the reversal of St. Louis’ minimum wage made it difficult to hear Greitens’ remarks. The governor isn’t signing the bill that lawmakers passed in May, but will let it go into effect.
“Me and my family will go back to suffering,” said Wanda Rogers, an employee at McDonald’s whose wages will go from $10 an hour to $7.70 an hour after Aug. 28. “I will have to worry about how I’m going to pay my bills and whether I will have enough money leftover to buy food or to pay rent.”
Greitens repeated his contention that a higher minimum wage hurts job growth — pointing to a recent study showing a $15 an hour wage had negative consequences in Seattle.
“We need to make sure that we’re embracing policies that actually lead to more jobs and higher pay,” he said Monday.
Later this week, the Board of Aldermen is poised to place a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot. The measure would put money toward boosting pay for police officers, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office, job programs and recreational centers.
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