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In St. Louis stop, Parson touts accomplishments in fighting violent crime

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson talks to members of the Urban League's Serving Our Streets initiative on Tuesday while visiting north St. Louis.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson calls investments in measures to fight crime a top accomplishment of the 2022 legislative session.

“I wanted to be up here to say thanks to a lot of people I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” Parson said Tuesday during a visit to Sts. Teresa and Bridget Catholic Church in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood of St. Louis. “With the added resources in the budget this year, we’re trying to do a much better job of trying to provide services and do away with the crime as much as we possibly can.”

The church is a base of operations for the Urban League’s outreach to opioid users in the area. It’s also the home church of James Clark, the Urban League’s vice president of public safety. He leads the Serving Our Streets initiative, one of the programs Parson highlighted.

Urban League staffers work in small sections of several neighborhoods, getting services to families in need. The program has helped prevent nearly 80 conflicts from turning violent and moved 24 people out of St. Louis when de-escalation did not work.

State Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, asked for the additional funding. She thanked the governor for being willing to support it through the process.

“They have been willing to listen,” she said of the governor and his public safety department. “And not only did the governor come down once, he came down four times and drove around the community to understand the challenges that we were having.”

Parson also touted investments in mental health and the creation of a law enforcement academy at Lincoln University, the first such academy at a historically Black college or university in the United States.

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Lt. Col. Michael Sack, interim Chief of Police for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, speaks on Tuesday.

Missouri Chamber plan

Parson on Tuesday also continued to express support for a set of crime reduction recommendations from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

The business advocacy group released the report this week, in response to a survey finding that a large number of CEOs believe violent crime is hurting the state’s competitiveness. It includes recommendations for more technology, and the use of data to determine where to place additional officers, for making targeted arrests.

Lt. Col. Michael Sack, St. Louis' interim police chief, said the department already follows many of the recommendations. But like other urban chiefs, he said the state’s gun laws make fighting violent crime difficult.

Take armed cruising, Sack said, in which individuals in cars drive around downtown and other St. Louis neighborhoods waving handguns and rifles out a window.

“This is Missouri. That’s not necessarily cause for a stop,” he said.

The chamber’s report references a 2021 bill Parson signed that makes it difficult for local and federal law enforcement agencies to cooperate on gun crimes. Parson said increased firearms restrictions do not automatically lower crime.

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Calvionne Rayford, 29, of Kansas City, Mo., throws a fist in the air while demonstrating against a recent Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade on June 24 outside Planned Parenthood in St. Louis.

Trigger ban and contraception

Also on Tuesday, Parson told reporters the state’s health department is evaluating whether a near-total ban on abortion will also affect access to contraception.

The state was the first to enact a previously passed abortion ban last week after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion. Birth control is not mentioned, but some, including former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, believe the law is worded to make it a crime to use certain types of contraception.

Despite being pressed repeatedly, Parson would not give a clear answer on whether people should be worried about access to birth control.

“I think the Department of Health will make those clarifications for us. I think they’re in the process of making that clarification so everybody knows how we’re going to read that,” he said.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann 

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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