St. Louis had averged averaged 145 murders each year for a decade before 2003. Police Chief Joe Mokwa gave Harry Hegger, the chief of his homicide unit, a goal of getting the total below 100 last year, the Associated Press reports. The city did better, as the number plummeted to 69, the lowest since 1962. Local officials say that “they put the squeeze on the city’s most violent neighborhoods,” AP says. The city has added 100 police officers and increased patrols in a dozen neighborhoods that once accounted for half of St. Louis homicides.
AP says that police keep tabs on people they consider troublemakers and pursue outstanding warrants to get “the worst of the worst” off the streets. Prosecutors have pressed for long sentences that put chronic criminals in prison. “I don’t think it correlated to more or less arrests, just smarter ones,” said Jennifer Joyce, the city’s prosecutor.