ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- “A shooting is just a person who missed,” Lt. John Green, commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police homicide bureau, said. “I mean a couple of more inches and it probably would have been a murder.”
Murder is a big problem in the city of St. Louis. We've had 427 murders since 2009. Police have solved fewer than half of those cases. According to the FBI homicide detectives should only work five new cases a year. St. Louis police were working double that until the chief recently shuffled some resources and added 10 new detectives.
Twenty-seven people have been killed in the city so far this year, and 17 of them hinge on more evidence and witnesses willing to come forward.
Antoiniette Wilkins died inside her own home on St. Louis Avenue when a stray bullet tore through windows and walls and struck the teen in her back. That was last November and police have no one in custody for it.
"People are always like don't snitch, don't tell until it happens to you, you know, and then everybody wants answers," Courtnei Dixon, Antoinette's aunt, said.
It's stories like that that haunt Lt. John Green.
"Every day. Every day they go through my head," Lt. Green said.
The homicide commander now has extra help -- 10 new detectives taken from other units in the department to help solve murder cases. Now 24 officers share the burden of putting the bad guys behind bars. Lt. Green tries to keep their caseload to five new murders a year, but that doesn't include unsolved killings they still work.
"A lot of the old cases pile up after you exhaust all your leads because you have nowhere else to go," Lt. Green said.
More than 200 murders remain unsolved since 2009. Police rely on people to tell them what they saw and what they heard. But the numbers speak for themselves; more often than not that valuable information is hard to come by.
"We need your help," Lt. Green said. "We weren't there when this happened, but somebody saw something and if they would just call us and point us in the right direction; they don't have to leave their names or anything. Give us a nickname, what happened, who might be responsible or who was with the victim when he was murdered."
Otherwise, it's a slow road to justice for families.
"Streets talk -- always, so somebody knows something," Dixon said. "It's just a choice whether they want to do the right thing and step up."