Violent crime has become more deadly in St. Louis over the past decade, finds a new study. Criminologist Janet Lauritsen and doctoral candidate Theodore Lentz of the University of Missouri-St. Louis analyzed years of police data and found the number of homicides per robbery or assault has risen by more than 50 percent over the past eight years, from 23 homicides per 1,000 incidents to 36, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The prevalence of gun use in St. Louis is a likely factor. One possibility, Lauritsen said, is that shooters are firing more bullets, or bullets of a higher caliber. It’s also possible that shooters are more interested in killing their targets now. “Whatever is driving the use of guns is likely to have more lethal consequences,” she said.
The study highlights gun use and violence in a city working to reduce crime and shake a bad national reputation. It also showcases just how difficult crime has been for police to curtail. Homicides in the city remain proportionately higher than in other cities of comparable population size. “It used to be long ago, 30 years ago, no one carried a gun unless they were a shop owner or they had a reason,” said Mayor Lyda Krewson. “Now in the state of Missouri, you don’t have to even have a permit to carry a gun. That relaxation of gun laws has caused policing to be much harder.” Police Chief John Hayden touted a drop in homicides from 205 in 2017 to 187 in 2018 as a victory for the crime-fighting strategies he implemented. The study found 94 percent of homicides in St. Louis involved a gun from 2015 to 2016, up from 78 percent in 2004. Similarly, more than 60 percent of assaults and robberies involved a gun from 2015 to 2016, compared with 43 percent in 2004.