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Gun Crimes Continue Downward Trend In City

The side of a St. Louis Metropolitan Police patrol vehicle.
St. Louis Public Radio | File Photo
The side of a St. Louis Metropolitan Police patrol vehicle.

St. Louis police chief Dan Isom says aggressive policing efforts are continuing to bring down the rate of aggravated assaults and other gun crimes in the city.

Isom's analysis came during his monthly report on crime numbers to the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners. Overall, crime in the city is down 12.7 percent from last year.

In late August, in response to a spike in gun crimes and the murder of a Saint Louis University alum, the department launched a 30-day "hot-spot" initiative that doubled the number of officers on patrol in high-crime areas between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. That brought down gun crime almost 70 percent in 30 days.

Isom said today the numbers continue to drop.

"I looked at it year-to-date, and we're almost to a 1 percent increase in aggravated assaults," he said. "And as we go into December, I'm hoping that we're going to be in negative territory."

Isom says the department has some money set aside for overtime for additional patrols, and may also switch shifts when needed.

Also today, the board gave the department permission to hire another crime lab technician who specializes in analyzing fingerprints. The position replaces one funded by a grant that was not renewed.

Lt. Angela Coonce, the lab commander, says her technicians receive 1,800 cases a year - more than the current staff of seven fingerprint analysts can handle. That's led to a growing backlog of cases.

"Our most recent grant employee, over a five-week period, did 26 cases," Coonce said. "That may not seem like a lot, but each case could have multiple submissions. You look at one case like the ATM Solutions case, which was a really big one for us, we got hundreds and hundreds of pieces of evidence from that one case."

Coonce says the department hopes to hire an experienced examiner who can start work immediately. She says recent accreditation under an international testing program could make the job more attractive.

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