‘We suffer from not having a plan’

This is the first in a series where we ask local leaders what we need to do differently to address the crisis in homicides in St. Louis.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson has offered solutions to the city’s dramatic homicide crisis: eliminating the residence requirement for police officers and boosting their pay to help the department recruit more officers. This, she said at a press conference on Friday, January 3, would address a staffing shortfall of about 130 officers.

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

Krewson was responding, in part, to the deaths of seven people in St. Louis in the first 36 hours of the year, with six of those deaths – all black victims – suspected to be homicides. There were 194 homicides in St. Louis in 2019; 175 of the victims (or 90 percent) were black. The annual average number of homicides in the city from 2015-2019 was 192, with nearly all of the victims black.

“Considering the circumstances, I think our police department is doing a great job,” Krewson said.

In 2017, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones came within 888 votes in a crowded Democratic primary (where Krewson was the only white candidate) from beating out Krewson for this job. Jones’ enduring influence and popularity prompted a veteran Post-Dispatch columnist to dub her the “shadow mayor” in 2018 and recycle the term last September.

What did Jones think of the mayor’s crisis response? What does she think we need to be doing differently to change the trajectory of lost black lives?

“This is one of those times when all of us need to be at the table bringing our collective resources and willpower and offices to the situation,” Jones told The American. And is the mayor – the city’s putative leader – making that happen?

“On New Year’s Eve, I was at an event focused on lives lost in 2019 with the mayor, the president of the Board of Aldermen and several other elected officials, and the mayor called for working together in her remarks. But I still haven’t seen anything,” Jones said.

“When I ran in 2017, I said I would host regular – not exactly cabinet meetings – but regular meetings with other elected officials to create an environment where collaboration and cooperation are the norm. Since Krewson was elected, I was never asked to attend any event in mayor’s office related to gun violence or any of the violence happening in the city.”

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