As New York City and Chicago reported that crime is down, St. Louis has received a grim warning that its crime levels will have an impact that the city has “never seen before” unless they are addressed within the next 18 months.
James Clark, vice president of community outreach at Better Family Life, said Monday the region has 18 months to get violent crime under control before it hits a skid that it’s “never seen before,” reports KBIA.org.
“We have been naive for a very long time here,” said Clark, whose organization has spearheaded anti-crime efforts in St. Louis since 2016. “But the national perception of St. Louis is very, very dire. Corporations are not looking to come here.
“We are losing conventions. And the number-one reason is because of our crime and violence.”
Meanwhile, in New York City, reported serious crime reached a record low in the first half of 2019, but the number of shootings rose, the Wall Street Journal reports. The New York Police Department (NYPD) recorded 43,294 major crimes, which includes murders, rapes, large thefts and felony assaults. The figure is the lowest for the first six months of a year since NYPD started tracking major crimes in 1994. It is 5.4 percent lower than the 45,764 crimes recorded during the same period in 2018.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who took over a city that was already experiencing significant drops in crime when he took office in 2014, said the police strategy of focusing on repeat offenders and serious crimes, as well as neighborhood policing, was paying off.
In Chicago, despite 66 people shot and five fatally wounded over the July 4th weekend, those numbers were better by comparison with previous Independence Day celebrations, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The weekend victims ranged in age from a 14-year-old girl to a 65-year-old man. Ahead of the holiday, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a strategy that included ramping up cops on the streets by 1,500 and confiscating weapons from those with expired firearm owner’s identification cards. On Monday, Johnson stuck by familiar talking points, blaming the criminal justice system for failing to hold gun offenders accountable. Between last Wednesday and Friday, 42 people were charged with felony gun-related offenses, he said, but only 15 remain in custody.
In a stark contrast to these cities’ brightening narratives, St. Louis seemed to be heading in a grimmer direction.
Adding more weight to Clark’s warning, an analysis of police data released earlier this month by University of Missouri-St. Louis criminology professor Janet Lauritsen and criminology doctoral candidate Theodore Lentz showed that violent crime in St. Louis has become deadlier in the past decade or so, and the use of guns is on the rise.
The study found that 94 percent of homicides in St. Louis involved a gun from 2015 to 2016, an increase from 78 percent of homicides in 2004. Guns also were involved in over 60 percent of assaults and robberies in that period, compared with 43 percent in 2004. The study shows the amount of homicides per robbery or assault has spiked in the past eight years from 23 per 1,000 incidents to 36, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Although St. Louis has been ranked as among the “most dangerous cities” in America, police claim there were significant declines in crime in 2018. St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden credited changes in police strategies with drops in homicides, robberies and carjackings. The homicide count last year was 187, compared to 205 in 2017—a 20 year record.
Clark argued that increasing the number of violence intervention workers in at-risk neighborhoods could make a difference.
“I believe that in order to give us the necessary wedge in our more high-crime neighborhoods, we need 50 outreach workers, and it must be sustained,” Clark said.
This comes as the St. Louis Crime Commission announced it would donate $200,000 to help fund the employment of outreach workers.
Better Family Life also received $118,000 last month from two corporate groups.
Editor’s Note: this is a corrected version of an earlier story to reflect the complete quote by James Clark.
Andrea Cipriano is a TCR news intern.