Crime in St. Louis County, particularly the growing rate of violent crime, has gotten the attention of local leaders. From St. Louis City Hall to the Lawrence K. Roos County Government Building all the way to the state capitol in Jefferson City, public officials seem poised to take decisive action to address violent crimes.
County Executive Sam Page shared a harrowing story on Tuesday, Sept. 17 of a recent visit he made to a local crime scene. Page expressed his shock and disbelief at the loss of another young life, this time a 3-year-old boy.
“Why is this happening?” Page said he asked himself.
While Page is currently working with other area leaders, including St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, he’s not waiting for a consensus to take action. Page announced at the Sept. 17 council meeting that he would use local legislation, passed more than 40 years ago, to bring together a commission on crime.
A 1976 county ordinance called for the creation of the commission. Although there has been no standing commission on crime in St. Louis County for some time, Page is ready to see the commission go to work.
“The commission will go a long way to make sure everyone in the criminal justice process is at the table,” Page said.
Commission members will include St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell and several other local law enforcement officials.
“The amount of expertise involved in this collaboration is tremendous and the conversations should provide tangible results,” Sgt. Benjamin Granda, spokesperson for the St. Louis County Police Department, said regarding Page’s announcement. “We look forward to the opportunity the Commission on Crime will present to the county.”
Page noted that the St. Louis County Police Department had successfully solved 21 of 26 murder cases this past summer.
“Sadly, that’s not where these stories end,” Page said. “Families are torn apart. Communities are scared. Crime marches on – sometimes, with a vengeance.”
In addition to the Commission on Crime, Page is proposing immediate action on a specific area of criminal activity.
In letter dated Sept. 12 and addressed to Krewson, Page made several proposals to tackle crime on MetroLink.
“Because MetroLink passes through both the city and the county … we share a common interest in making sure MetroLink is safe and secure in both jurisdictions,” Page wrote. “Safety and security are not what our residents currently experience on MetroLink.”
Page indicated that he has consulted with Belmar and the county is prepared to provide 16 additional uniformed officers to beef up police presence on trains and platforms within the city. According to Page, this would be in addition to the county’s current presence of 37 officers, six sergeants and one lieutenant.
In a written response dated Sept. 17, Krewson responded that she “wholeheartedly” supported Page’s proposal for more officers from the County Police Department.
Page wrote that estimated costs of police on MetroLink would be $2.4 million per year including the additional officers being proposed. He plans to ask the county council to withhold the same amount from St. Louis County’s total yearly contribution to the Bi-State Development Board, the governing body that oversees the operation of MetroLink.
The topic almost certainly will be on the next agenda for the county council.