St. Louis murder rate soaring, mayor announces plan to defund police, shut down a city jail

The murder rate in St. Louis, Mo., which was already the worst in the nation, reached a 50-year high in 2020 with 87 homicides per 100,000 residents.

So the logical thing to do would be to defund the police department and shut down a city jail.

That’s according to St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, who became the city’s first black female mayor last month. She campaigned on a promise to enact progressive criminal justice reforms and proposed a budget last month that would close a city jail, divert $4 million from police to social programs and cut nearly 100 police jobs, according to Fox News.

The progressive Democrat’s budget proposal for next year “would cut $4 million from the police department and reallocate the funds to an affordable housing fund, victim support services, the city’s Department of Health and Human Services and Civil Rights Enforcement Agency, which investigates housing, equal employment and public accommodation complaints,” the network reported.

And with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department having nearly 100 unfilled police jobs, Jones is looking to eliminate the vacant positions — current officers would not be laid off.

The city’s black corrections department commissioner offered his resignation and in making the announcement last week, Jones said she didn’t ask him to step down but cited inhumane conditions for detainees, among other things, to make it clear she was happy with the move.

“Failed leadership overseeing the City’s Corrections division has left the City with a huge mess to clean up,” Jones said. “We look forward to bringing effective leadership into the Corrections division that can account for these issues and raise the bar on effective management and oversight of the City Justice Center.”

The city just elected a Black Lives Matter organizer to represent them in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., reportedly a practicing faith healer trained to heal AIDS and cancer, denounced the “deplorable” conditions of the St. Louis jail while showing support for the mayor.

“What we witnessed in those jails was unsafe, inhumane, and tragic. Transforming our approach to public safety in St. Louis has been long overdue, and the Mayor’s bold and early leadership on this issue has been exemplary,” she said. “We share a commitment to reducing harm in our communities and ending the cycles of trauma that have caused far too many of our neighbors to be locked up in our city’s jails.”

The record murder rate comes amid a dwindling population. Home to 857,000 people in the 1950s, the Gateway City now has less than 300,000 residents — black residents are the majority, representing 45.3% of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Some city officials are trying to blame the spike in violence on the pandemic, but Fox News noted that before COVID-19, St. Louis led the country in homicides per 100,000 in 2019 with 65, comparing that to another Democrat-run city notorious for violence, Baltimore, which had the second-worst rate in 2019 with 57 per 100,000 — a record high for that city.

In many Democrat-run cities, officials cited COVID-19 as justification for the release of thousands of inmates.

There’s also been a significant uptick in violent crime after last summer’s Black Lives Matter riots, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, with that city being among the worst. With law enforcement having been knocked back on its heels, the concept of proactive policing is all but a thing of the past.

As for St. Louis, Jones is looking to take a “comprehensive approach” to the violence, according to interim City of St. Louis Director of Public Safety Daniel Isom.

“Funding a comprehensive approach to violent crime is the best approach to reducing murders,” Isom said of the mayor’s plan. “This requires both police and partnering agencies adequately funded to support victims and hold offenders accountable. It also requires target arrest and prosecutions to get murderers and shooters off the streets and not filling jails with nonviolent offenders.”

In an interview this week with the UK’s The Telegraph, Jones said that “more police doesn’t prevent crime.”

Tom Tillison

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