April 13, 2021 19:55

Can St. Louis Ever Tame Its High Murder Rate?

For many years, St. Louis has had one of the world’s highest murder rates. This year, than 225 people have been killed, heading to a homicide rate not seen in decades, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Much of the script has remained the same from one year to another. Community leaders say the city needs to stop tinkering in the margins, redrafting one proposal after another to curtail violence. It’s unfair to fault a beleaguered police department in a city with a startling amount of gun violence, criminologists say. They argue that prosecutors and police have no control over the underlying causes of crime. So how can the city tamp down violence? Many experts believe it starts with sustained funding for initiatives whose effectiveness can be measured over time. Many anti-violence efforts receive funding for a few years, making it difficult to determine if their approach was worthwhile. Funders want results showing their money was well-placed. .

The Post-Dispatch spoke with community activists, policy experts, law enforcement personnel and others about what programs are effective and what steps are needed to make neighborhoods safer. It is part of the Missouri Gun Violence Project with the Kansas City Star and the Missouri Foundation for Health looking at possible solutions to gun violence in St. Louis and the state. Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health took aim at the federal Operation Legend, which says it cut St. Louis homicides 49 percent, which Webster calls “laughable.” The claim takes two data points and assumes that one thing caused the change, he said. Webster said St. Louis should look to Oakland, Ca. In 2012, a voter-approved public safety tax provided a steady source of revenue for prevention resources and programs, housing and jobs. The city now has a Department of Violence Prevention.

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