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Downtown St. Louis task force sees progress in public safety downtown

"Most people agree that if you have a vibrant downtown with many people participating in events, walking the streets; it’s less opportunity for crime to occur."
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Gateway Arch towers over the St. Louis skyline on a dreary, rainy day, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011 in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

ST. LOUIS — A task force of government and business officials said on Monday that public safety in downtown St. Louis has improved since the group’s formation last September.

From January to August of last year, there was an average of 9.6 aggravated assaults with a firearm downtown, according to the city’s interim public safety director, Dan Isom. That average declined to 3.5 assaults from September through December.

The downward trend also held with downtown robberies, albeit smaller, with an average of 4.5 between January and August last year and dropping to 3.7 from September through December.

Isom said the declines resulted from several factors, a major one being a community-wide partnership to hold more events downtown. The task force cited two youth pop-up events, the Lunchtime Live series and Winter Night Markets.

“Most people agree that if you have a vibrant downtown with many people participating in events, walking the streets; it’s less opportunity for crime to occur,” he said.

Another factor is making businesses aware of incidents so they can place their private security in areas to provide visibility that can deter crime.

“It’s not one or another approach. It’s all combined together,” said Isom, a former St. Louis police chief. He added it’s the same approach that police use in several neighborhoods of the city.

The new task force – the Downtown Engagement and Public Safety Initiative – was formed as crime spiked in the central business district amid the coronavirus pandemic.

High-profile crimes last year included a St. Louis Blues prospect robbed at gunpoint on the Arch grounds. Square, which earlier in 2021 relocated from the Cortex Innovation District to the former Post-Dispatch building at 900 N. Tucker Blvd. downtown, temporarily closed its offices Aug. 30 after a man was found shot to death in a nearby plaza. Alderman Jack Coatar, who represents downtown, said windows had been shot out at several prominent downtown office buildings.

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