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St. Louis police battling jump in gun crime, new HQ construction running behind

(via Flickr/robertnelson)

St. Louis police say they're seeing a significant uptick in gun violence in St. Louis, even as crime is down overall.

The department released the latest crime numbers for 2012 at the meeting of its oversight board on Wednesday morning. Aggravated assaults with a weapon are up 19 percent in 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.

Special groups like the Violent Offenders and gang units are targeting individuals with a history of gun violence and possession, police chief Dan Isom said, but that won't solve the entire problem.

"A significant portion of these incidents are incidents that arise out of isolated events and disputes, which are much more difficult to predict," Isom said.

Isom says the easy availability of handguns is part of the problem, but the chiefs of police in major cities have been unable to get traction politically on restricting gun purchases.

Also today, Isom told the board the department is about 12 months behind schedule on its new headquarters at 1915 Olive St., northwest of downtown.

Last September, the department received $3 million from the St. Louis Police Foundation for the rehab of the old Wells-Fargo building. At the time, the move was expected to be completed in 12 to 18 months. Isom said today that date is now more like the middle of 2014.

Isom says the department never had a hard deadline for the move - a complicated task that involved 500 employees and thousands of pieces of equipment and evidence.

"What I can say is that we have moved in a very efficient way," Isom said. "We are making sure that we dot our I's and crossed our T's and that we're getting the best plan for our money."

Isom says the delay is partially due toa dispute over whether the department could issue one bid for both the design and construction of the building. He says there will be enough money to finish the work despite the longer time frame.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.