© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Justice Department violent crime initiative to send St. Louis funding and federal help

Police respond to a deadly shooting on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023 at Lindell and Spring, just off the campus of St. Louis University, in St. Louis. The shooting left one victim dead, with another person transported off the scene.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
Police respond to a homicide last year at Lindell and Spring, just off the campus of St. Louis University. The U.S. Department of Justice identified St. Louis as a city “most in need of crime-fighting resources.”

The Department of Justice has added St. Louis to its violent crime initiative, a decision that will bring more federal dollars to police departments for crime prevention efforts.

The expansion, which also includes Jackson, Mississippi, and Hartford, Connecticut, will add two prosecutors to the U.S. Attorney's Office in St. Louis.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a recent announcement that the initiative will distribute an additional $78 million to community violence and intervention programs and research around the country. Community-led violence intervention efforts can apply for funding under the initiative.

The program, which began in Houston in 2022, aims to increase the presence of federal agencies in each city. It means a larger federal agency presence in St. Louis. The Drug Enforcement Agency aims to dismantle “criminal drug networks doing the most harm in communities, including in St. Louis,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said.

“Drug-related crimes and violence continue to have a significant impact on our communities and demand a new approach,” Milgram said. “Expanding the Violent Crime Initiative further extends our potential to successfully investigate and prosecute criminals by harnessing the full potential of state, local, and federal partnerships.”

Garland said the initiative has helped reduce violent crime through increased policing and criminal prosecution.

“The FBI reports that last year we saw a significant decrease in overall violent crime across the country compared to the previous year — including an over 13% decline in homicides,” Garland said. “That is the largest one-year decline in homicides in 50 years. The Justice Department is not easing up on our efforts to reduce violent crime. In fact, today, we are doubling down.”

Overall crime rates in St. Louis are the lowest in a decade. Police officials attribute the improvement to their focus on gun intelligence and community partnerships. Alderwoman Laura Keys, who represents the 11th Ward, said police-community relations will help eliminate violent crime.

“Years ago, we had police officers who regularly drove our community. We don't see police in our community anymore,” Keys said. “But I don't think we've had as many incidents as some other places, not a lot of violent crime. It is down.”

In 2023, St. Louis marked its third consecutive year with a decline in total homicides. St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said the city has made reducing violent crime a priority.

“Under my administration, homicides in our city have decreased by 40%. We welcome this opportunity for St. Louis to work with the attorney general’s office as we continue to build upon our progress in reducing violent crime and saving lives,” Mayor Tishaura Jones said.

U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming said that by adding two additional prosecutors, St. Louis will grow safer.

“We have long had a focus in the Eastern District of Missouri on violent crime and complex criminal conspiracies, and the addition of two experienced prosecutors will allow us to expand that,” Fleming said.

According to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which represents metropolitan police officials in major U.S. cities, overall violent crime decreased significantly in 2023. Detroit had the fewest number of homicides in over 50 years. Baltimore, New Orleans and Philadelphia each saw homicides drop by at least 20%.

“These declines are not just abstract statistics. As you know so well, they represent people — people who are still here to see their children grow up, to work toward fulfilling their dreams, and to contribute to their communities,” Garland said.

Lauren Brennecke is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio and a recent graduate of Webster University.