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Homicide rate among challenges awaiting next St. Louis mayor

The city's criminal justice system could be in for big change, regardless of who wins

ST. LOUIS — Whichever candidate St. Louis voters pick in Tuesday's mayoral election will face daunting tasks, including a declining population and one of the worst murder rates in the nation.

City Treasurer Tishaura Jones and Alderwoman Cara Spencer, both Democrats, advanced to the general election by finishing 1-2 (Jones was first) in a new nonpartisan primary format in March. St. Louis is so heavily Democratic that until voters approved the new format, the general election was largely an afterthought.

See all election results here.

Incumbent Mayor Lyda Krewson announced in November she would not seek a second term. Krewson, 67, is the city's first woman mayor.

Police said 262 people were killed in St. Louis last year — five less than the record of 267 set in 1993. But because the city's population has declined since 1993, the per capita homicide rate was much higher in 2020. The homicide pace in 2021 is ahead of last year's pace.

The city's criminal justice system could be in for big change, regardless of who wins.

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Jones, 49, a former state representative who has been treasurer since 2013, said the "arrest and incarcerate" model of criminal justice has been a failure. She would bring in more social workers, mental health counselors and substance abuse counselors, rather than adding more uniformed officers.

Spencer, 42, has been a member of the Board of Aldermen since 2015. She favors a "focused deterrence" model connecting those at risk of committing violence to self-help resources, but making it clear those who cross into crime will face the consequences.

Meanwhile, St. Louis continues to see an exodus to the suburbs. The city's population that peaked at 856,796 in 1950 is now just slightly above 300,000.

Krewson had a personal connection to the violence -- her husband was fatally shot in a 1995 carjacking. She ran on a pledge to battle crime, but the city saw a staggering increase in killings during the coronavirus pandemic.

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