During the 2006 State of the City Address, I suggested a need to hire more police officers and prosecutors to go after dangerous criminals, problem properties and nuisance crimes, and to improve the investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults. I had hoped to pay for that plan by asking the legislature to let City voters raise the sales tax to fight crime. Unfortunately, legislative wrangling over a proposal to require Voter ID’s killed that bill (and several other good bills) in the Missouri Senate.
So, here’s the new plan. On Friday, alderman Steve Conway will introduce a bill that will ask City voters to approve a modest increase in the Graduated Business License fee. If that is passed, it will generate $3.2 million. A second bill to be introduced on Friday will ensure that proceeds from the Graduated Business License will be invested to fight crime in the following ways:
Add 20 police officers to expand the Most Violent Offenders Program.
Add 20 officers to neighborhood patrols. These officers will be assigned to District operations to more aggressively target nuisance crimes, problem properties, drug use, and other disruptive behavior.
Add three investigators to the Sex Crimes Unit so that all sex crimes are channeled to the unit. The Police Department will add an additional advocate for victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse. And, they will add a criminologist to the lab so rape kits can be processed faster.
Create a “Career Criminal Unit” in the Circuit Attorneys Office to prosecute repeat and violent offenders.
Add prosecutors in the City Counselor’s office to handle the additional nuisance crimes and problem property cases.
Alderman Conway will also introduce a bill to place a 1/8th cent sales tax on the November ballot to build two new recreation centers, repair existing centers, and create new recreational programs for children. If we don’t do something, the real-life trajectory of too many young people is predictable: boredom, unemployment, drugs, car clouting, carjacking, high-speed chases, shoot-outs, and, if they survive, prison.
Taken together, these initiatives - if ultimately approved by City voters - will strengthen our neighborhoods.