The U.S. Attorney’s office in St. Louis is getting extra manpower to help prosecute gun and drug cases in the city and St. Louis County.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Tuesday that as many as five assistant attorneys general from his office will be deputized to serve as federal prosecutors, a level of cooperation Schmitt called unprecedented.
“My primary job is to make sure Missourians feel safe,” Schmitt said. “I’m proud of this level of cooperation. That’s what we need. For us to effectively tackle these issues in this region, we’re all going to have to work together. And this is one piece to that.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office currently has 15 prosecutors handling violent crimes that have a federal connection, such as business robberies, gun cases, or murders committed alongside another federal crime, like drug dealing. They each handle about 50 cases a year, said Jeff Jensen, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri.
“So with the math, this will add about another 150 to 200 cases, depending on the crime rate,” he said. “Having the [attorney] general within one month of being in office coming to meet with me and asking how can I help, and I said, we could really use some dedicated, experienced prosecutors to help us in the highest crime neighborhoods, and that's what he’s agreed to do, and I’m grateful for that.”
Federal prosecutors had already been working closely with law enforcement in the city, especially in the area of north St. Louis known as “Hayden’s Rectangle.” Over the course of 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s office filed more than 500 charges for crimes committed in that area — the number of people charged was not immediately available.
While Schmitt and Jensen focused on crime rates in the city of St. Louis, where there were 187 homicides and 350 carjackings last year, the additional prosecutors will handle federal crimes in St. Louis County as well.
Schmitt said he had also had “good conversations” with St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell about offering state resources to their offices.
A spokeswoman confirmed that Gardner had met with Schmitt several weeks ago, and said “they also both pledged to work together on addressing violent crime, just as the circuit attorney works with the U.S. attorney.” Bell said in a statement that he had a productive meeting with Schmitt last week and "as is our philosophy, we intend to collaborate with all of our law-enforcement partners, which would include the AG's office."
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