We have an extraordinary opportunity to reduce gun violence in this city. But we need to work together, and we need to get started right away.
Back in February, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, Police Chief Sam Dotson, former Chief of Police Dan Isom, and UM-St. Louis Criminologist Rick Rosenfeld issued the following statement: "Our court system must approach all gun cases as though our lives and our city's future depend on it."
Together, we proposed creation of "a specialized trial division whose purpose would be to deliver a comprehensive and evidence-based judicial response to the chronic and unacceptably high incidence of gun offenses in the city of St. Louis" '- an Armed Offender Docket.
This special division of the state circuit court in St. Louis would exclusively handle two classes of gun cases: (1) UUW- Unlawful Use of a Weapon (in which the alleged offender is charged with illegally carrying or firing a gun) and (2) Robbery 1st Degree (in which the alleged offender is charged with using a gun in a robbery).
These are the gun crimes that have the most pervasive effect on law abiding citizens' sense of personal and neighborhood security. These are the gun crimes, in our judgment, where the court could have the most profound impact in preventing future gun violence.
How? With focused, sustained and consistent intervention, and by knowing a lot more about the defendants who appear before the court - so we can better understand who needs to be kept behind bars and who deserves another chance.
The gun docket wouldn't be a "treatment" court like the drug court. It would be a "violence reduction" court in which the judges would have the full array of tools to do justice and help prevent further violence.
This idea is not without precedent. We already dedicate a judge to run a Juvenile Court. We do so to promote consistent and expert juvenile justice.
For the same reasons we propose that dedicated judges be put in charge of the Armed Offender Docket. They would handle all matters in UUW and Robbery 1st cases ' from arraignment, to bail determination, to trial or plea, and sentencing and post-sentencing supervision.
The results of the cases would be shared widely with the public so you can see through regularly reported data what is happening with gun cases, and what strategies of punishment or supervision may be making a difference in reducing gun violence.
On September 16, at their monthly meeting, the Judges of St. Louis' Circuit Court are expected to decide whether to adopt and implement the Armed Offender Docket. Not every judge is for the idea, but many are.
I would like the judges' decision to be made taking into account your opinions. I want to help them hear you. I have created a dedicated email account to collect everybody's ideas: email@example.com
St. Louis is a city of tremendous imagination and expertise ' and great loyalty to neighbors and neighborhoods. Together we are making St. Louis a safe city. We have an extraordinary opportunity to reduce gun violence. But we need to work together, and we need to get started right away.