St. Louis is undergoing a renaissance that has attracted national and international attention. The reason the City is growing again is that our quality of life - everything from streetscapes and retail choices to schools and jobs - is getting better.
Chief Joe Mokwa and his department played an important part in our renaissance. According to the department’s reported statistics, crimes against people and property went down overall last year. Chief Mokwa and his officers deserve our congratulations for their successful efforts. But, as the chief will tell you: that was last year. There is more to be done. We must work together to make all of our neighborhoods safe.
I do not think that is an impossible goal. There are plenty of neighborhoods in the City that almost anyone would already call safe. There are others, however, that hardly anybody would call safe. Keeping the strong neighborhoods safe, and making the rest safer, is a good way to get where we want to end up.
Chief Mokwa has implemented a number of effective policing strategies in the past year that have made neighborhoods safer. To supplement his efforts, the City added 450 jail spaces to house the criminals the police department arrested. We created a career criminal unit in the Circuit Attorneys Office to prosecute more effectively. We created a Problem Properties Nuisance Crime unit to reduce the kind of petty offenses that drive people crazy - and which are gateways to more serious crimes.
The City also worked to prevent crime by addressing some of its underlying causes. We funded agencies, like Better Family Life, that use proven strategies to strengthen families. We increased the number of spaces available in after school and recreational programs to give kids useful things to do when they are not in school. We used funding from the state for a prisoner re-entry program that is already showing hopeful early results. We opened a new charter school to focus on teenagers who have dropped out of school. We put together a summer jobs program to give more teenagers some experience of the workplace and some idea of the expectations we have for them. And we worked very hard to attract new investment in neighborhoods that have been neglected for decades.
This year, we will need to continue those efforts - and do more. For that reason, I look forward to working with Chief Mokwa and the Board of Police Commissioners to add more police officers to his department, to find new revenues to improve their compensation, and to use some new technologies to improve their crime fighting effectiveness. The Police Department’s efforts, plus the City’s, will move us from a good year to a better one.