Because safe neighborhoods and crimes-that-don’t-happen rarely make the news, most people know a lot more about crime in the City than about our successful crime prevention efforts.
Still, a report released by the FBI today very much deserves mention. Violent crime was down more than 11 percent in the City of St. Louis in 2007, and property crime was down nearly 17 percent.
That means that the hard work and ingenuity of many people is paying off. Making neighborhoods safe requires the successful coordination of dozens of different agencies, departments, and initiatives and watchful residents.
On the prevention side, we have successfully expanded career training, provided more summer jobs for teenagers, expanded recreation and after school programs, and created one of the most innovative prisoner re-entry programs in the country.
On the intervention side, the Police Department has created an anti-crime unit that focuses on stopping specific sorts of offenses when those crime stats start to rise. For example, when the Police Department’s new high-tech crime mapping program began noticing changes in citywide car theft patterns, the task force used bait cars and intelligence gathering as weapons. And it worked: Vehicle theft was down 27 percent in 2007, according to the FBI figures.
(Other factors that contributed to the drop in crime in 2007: a new career criminal unit created in Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s office; 450 additional spaces opened in the City Jail to keep criminals off the streets; and aggressive work by the interagency problem properties/nuisance crimes unit.)
It is too soon to know if the good safety trends for 2007 will continue for 2008. Certainly, a worsening national economy and the continuing (too-)easy availability of illegal weapons present real challenges.
Two efforts in 2008 that next year’s FBI report will measure are the Police Department’s well-publicized Homicide Initiative and the crime-prevention effect of one of the Police Department’s largest per capita neighborhood police patrol deployments in a while.