Some progress, and some frustrations.
That's how city leaders described their efforts to fight crime in St. Louis this past year.
Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Francis Slay and Chief of Police Sam Dotson shared crime statistics from 2016 and revealed new plans to battle crime in the new year.
Overall, police report the total amount of crime in 2016 is down from 2015. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department reported 26,013 crimes in 2016, and 24,941 crimes in 2016 — a more than four percent drop.
Police report the number of property crimes dropped 6.6 percent. That includes a drop in burglaries, larcenies and vehicle thefts, which Dotson said hit their lowest number in decades.
Still plaguing the city, however, are the violent crimes. Those increased 4.4 percent this year, and include homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assault.
The number of homicides remained the same. In 2015 and in 2016, police count 188 reported killings. Most of those homicides were committed with a firearm.
“One hundred eighty-eight people lost their lives to senseless and destructive violence in the city of St. Louis last year,” Slay said. “Not one of those untimely deaths was warranted.”
“That’s frustrating, that crime is one of the most stubborn — where we focus a significant amount of our attention and our detectives,” Dotson said.
Dotson introduced one strategy he hopes will reduce gun crime.
“What we found is, if we can target shootings — non fatal shootings that happened — we can interrupt a cycle of violence that can keep retaliatory shootings from occurring and reduce the number of homicides in other cities we’ve seen successful,” he said.
Dotson hopes to launch a program called the St. Louis Gun Crime Intelligence Center this spring. The idea is modeled after a program in Denver, Colorado and involves federal partnerships to more quickly investigate shell casings at shooting scenes.
“We are able to now put those shell casings into a database that’s populated by agencies all over the region and all over the country, to develop investigative leads – where our officers can go out in 24-48 hours and help interrupt the cycle of violence,” Dotson explained.
Dotson and Slay both want to see more cameras around the city. They said the city-wide system that feeds into the Real Time Crime Center has helped police solve crimes already. Police say the license plate recognition technology led to dozens of arrests last year.
Both city leaders said police can’t solve the crime problem alone.
Slay talked about a decision voters will make in April, whether to approve a half-cent sales tax in the city of St. Louis. If approved, Slay said the city will spend the money raised between infrastructure and public safety.