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Government, Politics & Issues

St. Louis Mayor Launches Task Force To Tackle Downtown Crime

Mayor Tishaura Jones announces the creation of the Downtown Engagement and Public Safety Initiative on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, during a press conference at Kiener Plaza in St. Louis, Mo. The group, composed of public and private business leaders, are looking at solutions to stymie crime and promote tourism in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Mayor Tishaura Jones announces the creation of the Downtown Engagement and Public Safety Initiative on Tuesday during a press conference at Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis. The group, composed of public and private business leaders, is looking at solutions to stymie crime and promote tourism in downtown St. Louis.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones on Tuesday announced a new public safety approach for downtown following a spike in gun violence in recent weeks.

Part of the new effort includes a greater police presence downtown for the next six weeks.

Interim Public Safety Director Dan Isom said most disturbances are occurring on weekends. He said the city has already begun deploying 30 police officers to patrol the area from Friday evenings to Sunday mornings.

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Brian Munoz
Dan Isom, interim public safety director, told reporters Tuesday that the city will increase police presence downtown for the next six weeks.

Isom said officers will focus on enforcing things like traffic rules and park curfews, but he added that the increased police presence is a short-term fix to a larger problem.

“This is not only about enforcement,” he said. “Creating positive and productive spaces in our downtown will bring more people to the neighborhoods to have fun and do things downtown.”

Isom will also meet weekly with a newly created task force called the Downtown Engagement and Public Safety Initiative.

Jones said the group, made up of government, community and business leaders, will discuss long-term solutions for revitalizing the area.

“The health of our downtown directly impacts the rest of the city, and a strong urban core will help our region grow. But making downtown safer has to go beyond just punitive enforcement measures. That’s limited thinking,” she said.

Jones said the group will focus on what makes downtown a good place to live, work and enjoy entertainment.

“My vision for downtown is one where people can bring their families for cultural events like concerts that show off our local artists, small businesses, and where our youth can take advantage of fun, safe activities,” she said.

Jones has taken steps over the past few weeks to shut down problematic bars in downtown linked to an increase in violent crime. That includes Reign Restaurant, a nightclub that had its liquor license suspended on Friday. The club has been the scene of several shootings in the past year.

A grassroots group of residents has been pushing city officials to increase public safety in downtown for the past year.

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Brian Munoz
"As goes downtown St. Louis, so goes this region. It must be vibrant; it must be safe," Jason Hall, CEO of Greater St. Louis Inc., told reporters Tuesday.

Business groups are also joining the effort to make downtown safer.

Jason Hall, CEO of Greater St. Louis Inc., is one of more than a dozen members of the task force. He said downtown St. Louis is critical to the region’s economic performance.

“Whatever happens in downtown St. Louis impacts the entire metro in our ability to compete for jobs, investment and talent,” he said. “In other words, we're all in this together.”

Hall’s group is behind a regional plan to spur economic growth over the next decade. It focuses on building up a strong urban core, which includes downtown St. Louis.

The Downtown Engagement and Public Safety Initiative task force also includes:

  • Bill DeWitt III, president of the St. Louis Cardinals
  • LaShana Lewis, chair of the St. Louis Downtown Neighborhood Association
  • Vanessa Cooksey, president and CEO of the Regional Arts Commission 
  • Ryan Davis, managing partner at law firm Bryan Cave Leighton and Paisner
  • Mike Konzen, chairman of PGAV Destinations
  • John Berglund, co-founder and managing partner of software firm the StarWood Group
  • Major Renee Kriesmann, commander of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s Central Patrol Division
  • Al Moore, director of corporate security and crisis management at Spire and chair of the St. Louis Area Corporate Security Leadership Organization
  • Serena Muhammad, deputy director of the St. Louis Mental Health Board
  • Laura Radcliff, chair-elect of the Downtown St. Louis Community Improvement District
  • Tony Thompson, CEO of Kwame Building Group
  • Michelle Tucker, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater St. Louis
  • Jared Boyd, chief of staff for Mayor Jones
  • Nancy Cross, executive director of operations for Mayor Jones
  • Wilford Pinkney Jr., director of Children, Youth and Families for Mayor Jones

Follow Corinne on Twitter: @corinnesusan

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