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Some Aldermen Take Critical View Of Rosy Crime Report From Police Chief

(via Wikimedia Commons/J. Pelkonen)
Crime in St. Louis seems to be going down, but city alderman say people still don't feel safe.

Check out your neighborhood's crime stats with the interactive map below.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department presented their crime statistics to the city's public safety committee today.  And even though the raw numbers show overall crime was down in 2013 compared to 2012, some aldermen say their residents don't care about the numbers if they don't feel safe.

Police chief Sam Dotson told members of the public safety committee to keep the numbers - especially the uptick in homicides - in context.  For instance, there were 120 murders in the city last year, compared to 113 in 2012. Both those are well off the recent peak of 144 homicides in 2010.  

"Homicides in the city of St. Louis, on a five-year trend, were at 136," Dotson said. "We still continue to trend below that." 

However, many aldermen like Antonio French, whose ward includes the Greater Ville, Penrose, Mark Twain and Kingshighway East, said they think the chief was ignoring the fact that many areas of the city are still extremely violent.  French said, 104 of those homicides - more than 86 percent - took place in an area occupied by just one-third of the city.

"Folks from those neighborhoods don't want to hear that we're doing great. They want to see a sense of urgency to do better," French said. "That's what I did not hear today."

He said he wants to see the chief's claims of context backed up by additional resources for his ward and surrounding areas.

Credit (St. Louis Metropolitan Police Dept.)
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson.

Dotson told the committee that in 2014, he plans to push the department to address crime "at every level we can, including enforcement, sentencing, social services, community partners."

That prompted Ald. Marlene Davis, who was observing the meeting, to remark that residents need to take some responsibility for their own neighborhoods.

The crime statistics for 2013 showed:

  • A nearly 13 percent drop in shoplifting cases. Dotson said much of that can be attributed to work by police in the 3rd District, who developed partnerships with businesses.
  • Despite heavy media attention on clusters of car break-ins, the total number of thefts from motor vehicles only rose by 74 from 2012 to 2013.
  • The city saw an uptick in the theft of car batteries due to a secondary market that developed for the part, much like one developed for catalytic converters.
  • Thefts of trucks and buses were up by nearly 20 percent because they had a high scrap value.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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