3 min read
Posted on 12.31.13
  • 3 min read
  • Posted on 12.31.13

On Sunday, Clara Jean Walker was inside her home when she was shot and killed by a bullet that rocketed through her window and into her body. It was the result of gun shots ringing out on her street. Someone with a rifle took her life.

Ms. Clara was an innocent bystander to the violence spilling out on the street in front of her own home.

Police are piecing together evidence and looking for the criminal ' all while another family is planning a funeral. It's a tragedy that never should have happened. Ms. Clara had nothing to do with whatever dispute on the street led to her death.

All of us ' whether we knew Ms. Clara or whether we live in a high-crime neighborhood or not ' should pledge to do everything we can to reduce the senseless shootings and violence.

That includes telling police anything and everything we know about the person or people who were on Ms. Clara's street, going after someone else.

St. Louis is awash with guns. It is far too easy for criminals to get them. It's frustrating. We have people who have no regard for the sanctity of human life who are armed. They shoot at each other and sometimes miss, hitting innocent people, like Ms. Clara. They didn't bother to think. They didn't bother to look around. They didn't bother to care.

This has got to stop.

We need your help. You play a crucial part in standing up to these criminals. I urge you to band together with your neighbors. With help from our police department and circuit attorney's office, our Neighborhood Ownership Model is already working in several neighborhoods. Neighbors are calling police, giving good suspect descriptions, and then, showing up to court for sentencing once a suspect is convicted.

It's how we, as a community, will demand change and demand justice for victims of gun violence.

I strongly support changes to federal and state law to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on guns.

But, we need the courts' help, too. That's why I am such a proponent of the Armed Offender Docket. The special docket would exclusively handle cases of offenders who use guns. We must demand higher bonds, and if convicted, tougher sentences for people who commit crimes with guns.

We had very many judges who agreed with me, Police Chief Sam Dotson, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce and UM-St. Louis's Department of Criminology to create this special docket. But unfortunately, not enough judges were willing to make this a priority.

It sounds like commonsense ' and it should be ' but the truth is, we have too many people getting the equivalent of a slap on the wrist for serious crimes.

So, our work on the Armed Offender Docket is not done. We are now in the process of monitoring how gun cases are handled in our court system so that we can create accountability in the courts and demand justice in gun crimes.

I want you to know that we are also working to address the underlying causes of crime. We have grants to help teens and adults re-enter our communities after they've been in prison to make sure they have opportunities that steer them away from committing new crimes.

And, two years ago, I formed a task force to combat teen violence. Hundreds of people are working together, creating real solutions.

This summer we partnered with businesses to give teens summer jobs. Some of those opportunities turned into part-time jobs for the rest of the year. We'll continue the program next summer too.

Violent crime is one of our City's biggest challenges. But, it's one that we can fix. Together.