With 196 homicides so far this year, St. Louis is on track to pass the 200 murder mark in a single year for the first time in more than two decades. St. Louis police investigated 188 murders last year, and the same number in 2015. The last time homicides in the city exceeded 188 was in 1995, when the total reached 204. The city’s population was nearly 20 percent higher then than it is now. Describing a region “awash in guns,” Mayor Lyda Krewson, other elected officials, law enforcement and clergy members gathered at City Hall Friday to urge city residents to report crimes, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. “The level of violence in our city is at a crisis level,” Krewson said.
Police Commissioner Lawrence O’Toole said many of the guns on the streets now had been stolen. “We know that cars are broken into throughout the area, not just in the city, and often because of concealed carry in Missouri … a number of these firearms are left in the cars,” he said. Police have seized more than 2,000 guns this year, but Krewson argues that it’s not nearly enough. The city will be implementing a gun buyback program, expected to begin next week, to help get some firearms off the streets, she said. Residents can exchange guns for gift certificates to an area business. “I don’t expect the criminals and the crooks to come in and bring in their gun. I expect the good people will tell us where the guns are,” St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards said.