3 min read
Posted on 05.27.14
  • 3 min read
  • Posted on 05.27.14

Crime is down more than 50 percent in the past six years, and down again so far this year. I credit good policing with both suppressing and preventing crime - including the sorts of violations that lead to more serious ones and, too often, to violence.

But, even with so much progress, our City is still too violent, particularly on a few blocks in neighborhoods plagued by the deadly combination of guns, drugs, and broken families. I have gone to far too many wakes, vigils and memorials for crime victims. I have had to give our City's prayers and condolences to far too many devastated mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

Local control of the police department and the law enforcement strategies it has enabled has been well publicized. So has our strong push for a dedicated gun court to match trained judges to a particular class of criminal behavior.

Attracting less attention, but generating encouraging successes, is a range of "crime discouragement programs" that operate outside the criminal justice system.

The Youth Violence Prevention Task Force (YVP) puts educators, foundations, community leaders, non-profit agencies, and City departments into the same room as the Metropolitan Police Department to address teen violence.

The YVP solutions, so far, have included: summer jobs, after-school programs, a new Rec Center in north St. Louis, high-quality charter schools with curricula aimed at students from low income families, an offender re-entry program, new affordable housing options, expanded minority workforce participation on construction projects in the City, and a continued emphasis on reducing lead poisoning.

With funding and technical assistance from the Centers for Disease Control, I have directed City's Department of Health to redouble its research, communications, education, prevention, and intervention programs to focus on the prevention of violence.

These programs are supplemented by others devised and supported by groups like the Incarnate Word Foundation, MERS, Head Start, the YMCA, Better Family Life, and Project Launch that focus on youth, under-prepared parents, and those without access to primary health care and mental health services.

With these initiatives and partnerships in place, I expect crime, especially violent crime, to continue to drop. But, I want to emphasize that the police and prosecutors cannot do this alone, and that the combined weight of the public and private initiatives I have sketched above are still not sufficient.

It will take the entire community to reduce crime in every neighborhood. All parents have to teach their children values and hold them accountable for their actions. All schools must provide children with the skills they need to compete for jobs that pay a real living wage. Every church and other places of worship must provide teenagers -- particularly young men who don't have fathers -- with good role models.

That effort - united and resolved - is the only way to reclaim every block of every neighborhood.