With more than five months left in the year, St. Louis’s murder total is almost as high as for all of last year, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Police Chief Joe Mokwa, criminologist Scott Decker, and others say it might be a mere hiccup in the crime picture and not necessarily a dramatic upward trend. They say there may not be much meaning in comparing numbers year to year for murder, which is considered the most capricious of crimes. The drop to just 69 killings last year was always considered a fluke, law enforcement officials admit. Through midday Monday. 67 murders had been recorded.
Decker, of the University of Missouri at St. Louis, has been studying the city’s murders for 25 years. He urged everyone to look at recent averages before jumping to any conclusions about what he calls this year’s “bump” in homicides. “My message would be that you can’t overreact to what happened last year, or this year. We’re still below the three-year average in year-to-date numbers,” he said. St. Louis averaged 69 killings through July for 2001, 2002 and 2003. Mokwa said his goal now is to try to keep murder total from reaching triple digits. At the current pace, St. Louis would finish with 119 killings for the year. Decker called 100 “a pretty reasonable goal.” He noted, “For a city that had 270 murders just 10 years ago, to be at 100 would be sustained progress.” Decker said he believes that police intervention efforts and successful prosecutions have been significant in causing the decline. Mokwa said he had noticed a slight variation from the past couple of years. “It seems there’s more acquaintance-type and domestic-type homicides this year. And those are the most difficult for us to intervene in.”