I met today with Police Chief Joe Mokwa and Police Board Colonel Chris Goodson about crime. I want to share with you some of the things we talked about.
I believe the vast majority of our neighborhoods are safe. But, the fact is, any increase in crime is unacceptable. It is of no comfort to me (or other City residents) that crime is also going up in other places across the country: we live here.
There are plenty of reasons cited for the recent upward trends of reported crimes in St. Louis: more inmates leaving prison, bad schools, poverty, lax sentencing, the prevalence of drugs. All of these reasons have some validity. But, they cannot be excuses.
Most City residents are already doing their parts: they’ve invested in homes and businesses here, adding value to their neighborhoods.
And earlier this year, City voters did their parts by approving an increase in the graduated business license fees. With that money, the Police Board can hire 40 additional police officers. If that’s not enough, we will find more.
I asked the chief and the colonel to use the full force and entire energy of the police department to prevent crime and arrest more bad guys. And, I asked the chief to use technology to better deploy our officers.
I told the chief that I will be talking to the judges about the number of convicts who get probation in the City. But, I also told the chief that if he arrests a criminal and the courts let him go, the chief’s duty will be to arrest the same bad guys again and again - until they are behind bars.
This has worked before.
When the department turned up the heat on car thefts and ran criminals through the system until they stayed in jail, the number of car thefts went way down.
Because the police department is a state agency, this is going require some teamwork. The chief does not report to me. He reports to the police board. So, I have asked Colonel Goodson to help me focus the Police Board’s full attention on reducing crime. I intend to ask Governor Matt Blunt to make sure that his next appointment to the Police Board shares my view that the department’s most important responsibility is reducing crime in the City.
I want to be clear: the responsibility of curring the crime rate does not fall only on law enforcement or the Police Board. The effort most likely to succeed will be a partnership involving law enforcement, the judges, the schools, our residents, neighborhood leaders, the faith community, state government, the federal government, and many others.
So, this morning, I renewed my commitment to the chief and the colonel that I would use the full force and energy of my office and City government to get at the root causes of crime.
City departments and other agencies will work with my office to increase quality educational opportunities, give more young people meaningful things to do after school and on weekends, train and connect more unemployed young men with jobs, help paroled inmates re-enter the community productively, and help chronically homeless people get the services they need to get off of the streets.
All these actions will play a role in reducing crime. I want this to be the last year that rising crime is at the top of a year’s agenda.
To the residents of the City, I want you to know we are on your side.
To the criminals, I want you to know the good people of St. Louis are coming after you. This is going to be a battle. And we will beat you.