Residents in and around a complex of 22 apartments on St. Louis’s Hodiamont Avenue presume that every one of them has been shot, or shot at, or is connected to a killer or someone killed. It is within troubled communities like this one that the surge in homicides and other violence has been felt most, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It is where homicide detectives say they see hopelessness take hold. Where people tell police they imagine themselves as either dead or in prison in five years, said Capt. Michael Sack of the Crimes Against Persons Unit. “If that's your reality, then why not engage in a robbery or other crimes?” he asked. As this year's homicide total rolls into the 130s — two-thirds higher than the same time last year — Sack's team tries to get a sense of the victims. An overwhelming majority are young black men slain by other young black men.
When the toll stood at 128, police found that 118 victims had criminal records. Last year, it was 144 of the 159 killed. One thing is different this year: an increasing number of female victims. There were 25 at that point, compared to 23 in all of 2014. “We're seeing more women engaging in a lifestyle that is similar to their male counterparts,” Sack said. “They're setting up robberies, or getting involved in the drug trade as they move into that lifestyle. They're putting themselves more at risk. Drugs, especially heroin, is driving a lot of it …drugs … equal profits and greed as an incentive. We had a triple (homicide) over a $60 drug debt. It doesn't take much money to set someone off.” The violent atmosphere makes it harder for police to get cooperation from witnesses. “I think (mistrust) has always been there, but now the public is getting a better understanding as to why people don't talk to us,” he said. “The downside to them not talking to us is that a case doesn't advance and there is an increased potential for retaliation.”