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St. Louis leaders look to boost youth programs after shooting at a teen party

Mayor Tishaura O. Jones gives her 2023 State of the City address on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, on the campus of St. Louis University in Midtown.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, shown giving her 2023 State of the City address in April, gathered a group of city leaders on Thursday to discuss youth programs after a shooting downtown left one dead and 11 injured.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones is calling for more youth programs after a shooting downtown killed 17-year-old Makao Moore and injured 11 other teens last weekend.

Immediately following the shooting, Jones said a lack of activities for teenagers can lead to violence. On Thursday, the mayor gathered leaders from the Office of Violence Prevention and the city’s youth program providers to look for solutions.

“I don't know if St. Louis has ever made a robust investment in our young people to give them activities – safe, fun activities – to keep them off of the streets,” Jones said at a press conference before the meeting, which was not open to the public or media.

The mayor said ending youth gun violence requires more than the stricter gun laws she’s advocating for.

“We know that we are fighting a war against guns, but we have to be smarter than that,” she said.

In February, Jones visited Newark, New Jersey, where she said the city’s mayor is working to improve youth centers. She said there’s a correlation between strong youth programs and reduced crime in cities like Newark, and she wants to learn from them.

St. Louis decided last weekend to extend Friday and Saturday hours for two recreation centers, Marquette and Wohl, through August. Programs for children 15 and under now last until 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. for those older than 16.

On Thursday, Jones said surrounding cities should consider doing the same.

“We have rec centers out in our region as well. And so that's why I'm calling on our region's leadership to match me or beat me in our efforts to protect our babies,” she said.

Also at the meeting, organizations supporting youth spoke about their commitments to help.

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis pledged to help teenagers find jobs, resources and recreational activities this summer. Story Stitchers, an artist collective working to prevent violence, said it's looking for 140 more youth to join the program.

“We have to give our young people everything that they need to be successful,” said Michael McMillan, president and CEO of the Urban League. “We cannot police our way out of this problem.”

Office of Violence Prevention Director Wil Pinkney said leaders will continue to meet this summer to finalize activities for youth.

“There's no one organization, there's no one government agency, there's no one nonprofit or for profit agency that can do this. We have to do it together,” he said.

Lilley Halloran was a Summer '23 News Intern at St. Louis Public Radio. She is studying Journalism and Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri.