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Krewson Plans No Shake-Ups In Public Safety Despite Violent Start To 2020

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson takes questions from reporters in her office at City Hallon Jan 3, 2020.
File | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
Mayor Lyda Krewson says she has confidence in the city's public safety leadership, even though police are investigating six homicides already this year.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson says she has confidence in the city’s police leadership, despite the deaths of seven people in the first 36 hours of the year.

“Considering the circumstances, I think our police department is doing a great job,” she said Friday in comments to the media outlining her plans for the year. “Unfortunately, we’ve had a particularly violent start to 2020. Of course it’s very troubling, and it’s discouraging.”

Police are investigating six of the recent deaths as homicides. They come on the heels of a year in which 194 people were killed, up from 186 in 2018. 

Krewson said the administration has faith that the implementation of Cure Violence in three city neighborhoods will help reduce crime. The program, which views violence as a public health issue, should be running by spring.

She is also backing efforts in Jefferson City to lift the residency requirements for St. Louis police officers. Currently, they have to live in the city for at least seven years.

Allowing officers to live where they want will make recruitment easier, Krewson said. The department is consistently short about 130 officers, which she said contributes to violent crime.

“We have to solve crimes, we have to make arrests, we have to hold those folks accountable,” she said. “But you need law enforcement to do that. And we’re here to support our law enforcement so they can do that.”

Krewson also plans to work with aldermen to boost police pay, a key selling point of a half-cent sales tax that voters approved in 2017.

Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt, along with the St. Louis Police Officers Association, also backs efforts to eliminate the residency requirement. Legislation to do so has already been filed in the state House and Senate.

Aldermen last year defeated a bill that would have asked voters to reverse the residency requirement for all city employees. Opponents laid most of the blame for vacancies in the city workforce on the personnel department, which they said regularly failed to respond to people who had applied for jobs.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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