Crime | St. Louis Public Radio

Crime

Missouri Highway Patrol Superintendent Sandra Karsten speaks with interim St. Louis Police Chief Larry O'Toole in July. The Highway Patrol began monitoring St. Louis highways this summer.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Halfway through a 90-day initiative, the Missouri Highway Patrol has confiscated at least 20 illegal guns and made hundreds of arrests for outstanding warrants on Interstates 55 and 70 in St. Louis.

It’s the first time in modern history the patrol has deployed up to 30 troopers on interstate highways within the city of St. Louis for an extended period of time, Capt. John Hotz said. But watching the highways may be one of the few things state and federal government can do to help St. Louis bring down its crime rate, putting the onus primarily on St. Louis’ officers and citizens.

A memorial rests for Rashad Farmer, who was shot and killed in 2015 on the 5800 block of Lotus Avenue in St. Louis.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a grim trend tucked into St. Louis’ 2017 homicide statistics: More than half of the victims are black males under the age of 29 and close to half of those suspected of doing the shootings are in the same age range.

It illustrates a stark reality in the city’s crime-ridden neighborhoods. Officials with the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment say employment and education are an answer to reducing the number of young people killed. But those who have made connections with the city’s youth say there’s more to be done.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar (center) listens to remarks by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (03/31/17, Eagleton courthouse)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Some of St. Louis County’s mayors say money from a recently enacted sales tax increase may not make the region safer — especially because cities with high crime rates aren’t necessarily getting the most money.

The half-cent sales tax, which takes effect later fall and is widely known as Proposition P, was billed as to be used on public safety. The breakdown of the money gives about $46 million a year to the St. Louis County Police Department, with roughly $34 million from the tax will be split among the county’s 89 municipalities.

Alderwoman Pamela Boyd, D-27th Ward, August 2017
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome St. Louis Alderwoman Pamela Boyd to the show for the first time.

Gov. Eric Greitens sits down for an interview with St. Louis Public Radio in downtown St. Louis on July 17, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In the span of a week, Gov. Eric Greitens unveiled two high-profile proposals: A proposal aimed at reducing violent crime in St. Louis and a statewide prescription drug monitoring program.

Critics of the Republican governor contended the plans lacked specificity – and questioned whether either proposal would stem the tide of St. Louis violence or opioid abuse. But in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio on Monday, Greitens positioned his two plans as "bold" action that should have been taken a long time ago.

Gov. Eric Greitens announces the "St. Louis Safety Plan" in north St. Louis on Monday, July 10, 2017.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

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.

Joshua Peters, July 2017
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back state Rep. Joshua Peters.

The St. Louis Democrat represents Missouri’s 76th House District, which takes in a portion of north St. Louis City. He was first elected to the House in a 2013 special election before being re-elected in 2014 and 2016.

Saint John's United Church vigil gun violence Kenneth McKoy
FIle photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet repeatedly have promised to help get violent crime in cities like St. Louis, which is on pace to have 180-plus homicides for the third year in a row, under control.

The administration has promised an additional $200 million to combat the problem, with most of the money targeted to boosting enforcement. Though St. Louis is guaranteed none of that money, the budget is praised by local law enforcement and criticized by those who daily try to fight crime on the ground.

Volunteers clear brush from a community garden in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood June 24, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

At a community garden half a mile north of Powell Hall, Marcia Martin spent Saturday dragging branch trimmings into piles to clear out the greenery that had overrun the garden. Martin and her husband were joined by about a dozen other volunteers working on the lot at the corner of Montgomery and Coleman in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood.

“When we started on this project you couldn’t see the grass,” said Martin, 60, of St. Louis. “There were four of us down here working, and then all of these other people showed up. It was just amazing.”

Mayor Lyda Krewson addresses reporters on Fri., June 2, 2017, after a violent week in St. Louis left seven dead and 13 injured by gunfire.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Mayor Lyda Krewson said Friday that she’s “beside herself” over a rash of gun violence in St Louis this week that killed seven and injured 13 others, including a 7-year-old girl.

But even as she pledged more money for police officer salaries, Krewson seemed at a loss for how to bring the spiraling violence under control.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The leaders of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Clair County say they are working with law enforcement to make it safer to ride MetroLink.

After meeting privately for more than an hour Wednesday, St. Louis Mayor-elect Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said they have a framework to improve security along the light-rail line that connects the three counties.

MetroLink train at station
File photo | Chris McDaniel | St. Louis Public Radio

Officials are considering "all options" to make the MetroLink system safer after the second fatal shooting on the light rail system in two months, the head of St. Louis' public transit agency said Thursday.

Mayor Francis Slay and Police Chief Sam Dotson at a press conference on January 15, 2015, discussing six homicides in 13 hours.
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

St. Louis' homicide level remained unchanged in 2016 compared with the previous year — 188. At the same time, aggravated assaults and other violent crimes were up and property crime was down, according to the latest crime statistics.

St. Louis' mayor and police chief on Tuesday touted an overall crime reduction of 4.1 percent, or 1,072 fewer incidents, in the last year. Compared to the peak crime year of 1993 when the city experienced 173 crimes per 1,000 people, last year saw 79 crimes per 1,000 residents.

Missouri Gov.-elect Eric Greitens hugs Rev. Ken McKoy, a pastor with Progressive Zion A.M.E. Church. Greitens walked with McKoy as part of NightLIFE, a group that seeks to curb violence in north St. Louis neighborhoods.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The bone-chilling streets of north St. Louis were largely empty last Friday night. An icy mist brought both automobile and foot traffic on Kingshighway to a halt, with the exception of a few cars and trucks – and a governor-elect.

On pavement that at times resembled an ice skating rink, Gov.-elect Eric Greitens walked methodically through the sidewalks and on the streets with a medium-sized scrum. The Republican chief executive-to-be was out with NightLIFE, a group seeking to curb violence in Fountain Park and Lewis Place neighborhoods.

Missouri Governor-elect Eric Greitens listens as wife Sheena talks about her expirence of being robbed to reporters in St. Louis.
Bill Greenblatt I UPI

Updated after Eric and Sheena Greitens' Tuesday press conference - Gov.-elect Eric Greitens is praising the quick work of law enforcement, and expressing sentiments of forgiveness, after Missouri's future First Lady was robbed at gunpoint on Monday night.

St. Louis police said in an emailed statement to St. Louis Public Radio that Sheena Greitens was sitting in her car near Cafe Ventana in St. Louis' Central West End neighborhood. Her car door was suddenly opened by a suspect, who then pointed a gun at Sheena Greitens and demanded her property. She gave the suspect her laptop and cell phone.

Hannah Westerman | St. Louis Public Radio

Nine people were arrested Monday in the Metro East as part of a state and federal public corruption task force operation.

Known as Operation Watchtower, the joint task force began this spring.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly announced the arrests at a press conference at the Illinois State Police Headquarters in Collinsville.

Kelly says his office has prosecuted a large number of public integrity cases but they still present a unique challenge.

falkow | Flickr

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys in St. Louis are applauding an appeals court ruling outlining what information must be provided to defense attorneys in criminal trials.

Paul Sabelman | Flickr

In March 2014, Rose Marie Hewitt was pulled over in St. Louis, where she lived at the time. Police found Vicodin in an unmarked bottle — narcotics Hewitt says she was holding for her boyfriend at the time to keep him from taking too many.

Police charged her with two counts of drug possession. "And that's a felony," she said.

Hewitt originally wanted to take her case to trial. But her lawyer told her that would probably result in two years of probation and a criminal record. Instead, she took a chance on the circuit attorney's Felony Redirect Program.

Flickr | alancleaver_2000

St. Louis aldermen used a meeting of the city's Public Safety Committee on Tuesday to blast the crime-fighting policies of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson.

"It is important that we make a distinction between criticism of the chief and the leadership and criticism of the officers on the streets," said Alderman Antonio French, D-21st Ward, and the vice chairman of the public safety committee. "Officers on the streets are just as frustrated. They can't say it publicly, but we hear it as aldermen."

Flickr | alancleaver_2000

There were few surprises in the 2015 crime numbers.

Three neighborhoods – Jeff/Vander/Lou, The Greater Ville, and Wells-Goodfellow – accounted for nearly a quarter of the city’s 188 homicides. In 2014, Wells-Goodfellow topped the homicide count at 14, though Dutchtown, on the city’s southeast side, was second that year with eight.

Though homicides were down in Dutchtown in 2015, it saw 122 people shot – more than any other neighborhood.

St. Louis Metropolitan Police chief Sam Dotson and Mayor Francis Slay discuss the 2015 crime numbers on Monday, Jan 11, 2016.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Crime in the city of St. Louis went up from 2014 to 2015, driven by a nearly 8 percent spike in crimes against persons.

"One hundred and eighty-eight people lost their lives to senseless and destructive violence the city of St. Louis in the past year," said St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. "Overall crime was up 2 percent over the previous year. None of these deaths were warranted, and neither of those numbers are acceptable."

Protesters outside St. Louis County headquarters on Feb. 2, 2015 call for reforms of the municipal court system.
File photo by Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Following the police shooting death of Michael Brown in August 2014, there was a flurry of activity surrounding police and municipal court reform, as a well as public safety. Those efforts spilled over into 2015, which saw some changes come to St. Louis and St. Louis County.

On Tuesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” we discussed the year’s biggest public safety, courts and police news with St. Louis Public Radio reporter Rachel Lippmann, who has been covering these issues for several years.

Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Mathematical algorithms power almost everything these days, from trades on the New York Stock Exchange to your Facebook feed. Now, the St. Louis County police department is betting it can reduce crime by using something called predictive policing.

Crime plan neighborhoods December 2015
Screen capture

Shortly before the St. Louis Board of Aldermen started to debate the city’s portion of a financial package for a new National Football League stadium, Alderman Antonio French, D-21st Ward and Mayor Francis Slay tweeted about a new comprehensive crime plan.

Though crime and the Rams are not logically connected, they have been linked. As St. Louis Public Radio reported last week, Alderman French voted to send the financing bill out of committee after an amendment was attached that provided a multi-faceted minority inclusion plan. And he said, "I am taking the mayor’s chief of staff at her word that we will complete our negotiations on a comprehensive [crime] plan before the final vote," French said.

We Must Stop Killing Each Other signs are posted on the security gate of a building near where Mansur Ball-Bey was shot by police.
Linda Lockhart I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is nearly ready to be awarded a nearly $1 million, three-year violence prevention grant for the near north side. To receive the money, the Board of Aldermen just have to approve the measure.  

The grant from the U.S. Department of Justice totals $999,858.60 and is known as the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program. It focuses on a neighborhood with a “concentration of crime hot spots.” The proposal under consideration by the Board of Aldermen targets Carr Square and Columbus Square, which have seen four homicides in the past two years, according to police data.

Black semi-automatic pistol
(via Flickr/kcds)

The Missouri Supreme Court is considering whether a gun rights constitutional amendment passed last year cancels out an older state law that bars convicted felons from owning firearms.

The high court heard three cases Tuesday in which lower courts dismissed felony gun possession charges based on the new amendment, which makes gun ownership an "unalienable right" that the state is obligated to defend.

Flickr | alancleaver_2000

St. Louis police confirmed the city's 160th homicide earlier this week, a number that surpasses last year's murder total. 

Davion Thompson, 14, clocks the speed of cars passing the intersection of Gasconade Street and Compton Avenue Saturday, Oct 10, 2015 during Trailnet's traffic calming demo.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Brightly-colored tires simulating flower beds popped-up along a two-block stretch of Gasconade Street Saturday in the Dutchtown neighborhood of south St. Louis.

Bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group Trailnet set the tires up to block the corners of intersections leading up to Marquette Park, shortening the distance people crossing the road were exposed to traffic. Other tires formed a zig-zag route for drivers to navigate.

Relations between St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Reed have improved a bit since they ran against each other in 2013.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has announced a new commission to help him implement his anti-crime strategy.

The mayor wants the Commission on Violent Crime to be operational by the end of the year, though many of the details, including who the members of the commission will be, are unclear. He unveiled the plans to revive the commission on his website on Thursday:

Mayor Francis Slay, left, and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson unveil the new Real Time Crime Center at police headquarters.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Mayor Francis Slay will join his counterparts from dozens of American cities in Washington, D.C. this week for the attorney general's summit on violent crime.

His trip comes as the city continues to battle an increase in crime. The latest numbers show crime is 10 percent higher in 2015 compared to the same time last year, though the increase has slowed down each month this year. St. Louis is on pace for about 200 homicides, a barrier it hasn't broken in nearly 20 years.

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