St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says her city has had 165 murders so far this year with most of those involving guns. FBI information makes St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield among the most dangerous cities in America on a per person average. During an interim Missouri Senate Committee hearing Monday about gun violence, Gardner asked for $500,000 from the state for a St. Louis gang intervention unit pilot program, which she said could lead to additional federal funding.
“They can go in places where most police won’t even go and they help solve a lot murders and they kind of know the history of the beefs on the streets,” says Gardner.
Gardner says gang units, which have come and gone throughout the years for political reasons, develop intel, work on preventing bad things before they happen and build trust within the community. She says in the early 1990s to 2000s, the units helped to reduce St. Louis homicides by 30%.
“To have that unit stabilized, and have this formal agreement that no police chief, or no mayor, or no prosecutor can undo, because we were successful, courts were involved, everybody was involved on a strategic approach. We have data – it shows that we cut violent crime 30%. Why won’t we bring that back,” asks Gardner.
During Monday’s hearing that took more than six hours, Gardner says St. Louis cannot arrest and prosecute its way out of its violent crime problem.
“Over the decades in the city of St. Louis, we have incarcerated more individuals than any jurisdiction in the state of Missouri. Yet, we still experience a high-level of violent crime,” says Gardner.
According to Gardner, gangs are not just the Bloods and Crips anymore and are not on the streets like they used to be. Members are loosely connected and using technology more than ever to carry out their crimes.
“Crime is complex. A police department has limited resources, but with this gang intervention unit, you have these analysts, you have all these individuals in house working together to clear a lot of these cases,” she says.
The St. Louis region has less than a 3% clearance rate on cases, which Gardner says is way below the national average. She points to lack of evidence and witnesses coming forward as being other major hurdles. The 24-hour unit would also include deploying prosecutors and witness protection and relocation services.
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