There are three students working in my office this month, part of a citywide program to give summer employment and career-type experiences to young people in the City. The summer jobs program, new after-school programs, expanded recreation programs, more family intervention programs, better jobs training programs, a determined emphasis on better public schools - all of these are positive programs aimed at developing good citizens. These programs are paired with new public safety funding to support 1,400 police officers, an additional 450 jail spaces, a crime analysis unit, and a violent crimes task force to address the problems posed - mostly to each other, but more tragically to innocent bystanders - by bad citizens.
Taken together, these various programs are contributing to an overall decline in crime in St. Louis, both last year and so far this year. They seem, however, to be having little good effect on homicides. Murder is up all over the country - and it’s up in St. Louis.
I see two main issues: too many guns on the streets and a stunning ignorance about how to resolve disputes peacefully.
Here is an example: At 5:30 yesterday, two brothers and a friend - all in their 30s - got into an argument. The friend decided to settle the argument by shooting one of the brothers. The other brother then shot the friend. Remove the guns or add any understanding of conflict resolution and there would be two fewer murders in St. Louis.
Last weekend, thousands of St. Louis men marched through a couple of City neighborhoods hoping to show a different and better way of living together. I very much hope that their examples, coupled with the dozens of programs the City has in place, capture the community’s attention.