By Alex Fees
St. Louis (KSDK) - Nine days after the Central West End murder of Megan Boken, St. Louis city officials announced they are receiving up to $600,000 in federal grant money to help combat criminal activity.
Mayor Francis Slay and Police Chief Dan Isom appeared at a news conference Monday with Democratic Congressman Lacy Clay. They announced St. Louis is receiving $200,000 from the Department of Justice and possibly $400,000 from the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program. The smaller grant will go toward expanding the city's drug courts. The larger one will go toward police officer overtime.
"We know that drugs and violence go together," said Mayor Slay. "A great deal of crime in our city is done by people who either sell drugs or do drugs."
Asked what the federal grant money would be used for, Congressman Clay said, "To improve the quality and intensity of offender services like health care, mental health services, and job training."
Clay said, "I also intend to support legislation to renew the federal assault weapons ban. The original assault weapons ban was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and for the 10 years that followed gun violence in this country went down and America was a much safer place."
Clay said Congress let the ban expire.
"And that is a mistake we are still paying for," he added. "The federal assault weapons ban outlawed 19 specific semi-automatic and other military-style weapons. Some of these weapons can fire over 120 bullets per minute; all of them have high-capacity ammunition magazines; and criminals can fire them over a wide area without aiming."
Chief Isom last week announced an anti-crime initiative to put more officers in high-crime neighborhoods during hours when most violent crime occurs. The police officers' union has filed a grievance over the matter, saying that according to their contract, officers should receive more advance notice regarding such a schedule change.
Slay said eight of the 12 neighborhoods that will be focused on are in north St. Louis. Two of them are central. Two are in south city. Isom said they choose the neighborhoods based on the number of calls for homicides, robberies, shootings, and shots fired.
Isom said, "Starting Friday of last weekend, we shifted our overlay resources to evenings. This is effectively putting 60 more officers on the street during the peak times that violence occurs, between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m."
Isom said those officers are patrolling very well-defined area where police believe they have the best chance of preventing homicides or shootings. Isom said 72 officers worked a safety checkpoint detail in Walnut Park, east and west, this past weekend.
Police department officials say the other neighborhoods, in no particular order, are Carr Square, College Hill, Greater Ville, Gravois Park, Central Downtown, Hamilton Heights/West End, Penrose, Upper Dutchtown, Kingsway East, Central West End.
Isom said that new initiative is already producing results.
"What we saw a week ago," said Isom, "is we had almost 10 shootings and two homicides. Last weekend we had two shootings."