Officials and experts from 15 cities will discuss crime problems at a summit convened tomorrow in Washington by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. St. Louis delegates include Police Chief Sam Dotson, Mayor Francis Slay, University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld and U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan. St. Louis today is announcing the addition of two police academy classes this year in the hope of bringing the city's force back to its authorized number of about 1,300 officers. The force is now about 80 below that total. Dotson believes the DOJ summit was prompted by an August meeting of the Major Cities Chiefs Association in which police chiefs gathered to address crime increases in most of their jurisdictions. Dotson will urge the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) division to return to the era of the 1990s, when its grants to fund the hiring of local officers created as many as 100 positions in Missouri.
This year, COPS provided enough funding for about 37 officers statewide, 15 of whom are earmarked for St. Louis. The grant funding for more officers during the 1990s also came at a time when the nation had declared a war on crack cocaine, Dotson said. Now, Dotson believes heroin is fueling the majority of the city's rise in homicides and other violent crime categories. “We were successful in the crack cocaine wars, and now we need a national war on heroin,” he said. In addition to the discussion about heroin, Dotson said topics on the summit's agenda include the impact of early releases from prison; gang violence; the age of offenders; gun laws by state; and whether there is potential to increase the use of federal prosecutors for local crimes. Dotson has turned to Callahan to prosecute a half-dozen homicide suspects this year.