Eight months ago, the St. Louis Circuit Court took a new, hard-line approach to gun crimes, setting bail at levels that virtually ensured each defendant would spend at least some time in jail awaiting trial. Police Chief Dan Isom credited that practice with reducing the city’s homicides by 20 percent, to a level not seen since 2004, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Researchers from the University of Chicago believe the change could revolutionize crime prevention.
Judge John Garvey, who introduced the effort in May, said early signs are promising but it’s too soon to gauge how much the simple strategy mattered. “I’m not convinced that gun bonds are the difference,” he said, ” but wouldn’t it be amazing if it was this easy?” Preliminary research is encouraging. Imposing immediate jail time instead of a delayed probationary period seems to deter impressionable youths from carrying guns, said Jens Ludwig, director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, which studies violence prevention tactics. “What St. Louis is doing is really cutting edge in terms of thinking about a problem we hear about from talking to cops everywhere,” he noted. The city’s unofficial homicide total for 2011 was 114 — the lowest since 2004.