A covert team of officers takes down a target with an illegal gun. They’re working hard to stop the rising number of violent crimes. In just a 12-hour span, St. Louis Metropolitan Police responded to three separate shootings, a triple stabbing and an armed robbery. These are the sorts of crimes that have the city again ranked among the most dangerous in the country. News 4’s Maggie Crane got rare look at how police are trying to change that.
I’ve spent time with these officers who are out in some of the roughest neighborhoods right now. I can’t tell you where they are, because they don’t want us tipping off the bad guys, but I can tell you that they know a lot more than you might think about who they’re looking for.
Evidence markers are an all-too common sight around St. Louis. Police have worked 245 more aggravated assaults so far this year over this time last year. The only difference between assault first and a homicide is a bad shot.
The Special Operations Unit is made up of an elite team of detectives tasked with tackling the city’s violent crime and going after the “baddest of the bad.”
Ronnie Robinson has ditched his starched, white captain’s clothes in favor of a ballcap and beard. He commands the covert operation, works in plain clothes and goes where crimes are the worst.
“A lot of times we can stop those crimes right before they happen because we don’t look like the police,” Capt. Robinson said.
We saw the Special Ops in action, hunting for guns and dope deals. They cuffed a guy with an illegal pistol Thursday afternoon. Wednesday night they pulled five suspects off the street for drug possession. It’s the sort of thing they hope works to stop the shootings.
“Those that are carrying guns, we get them off the streets. Those that are involved in illegal narcotic sales, we get them off the streets,” Capt. Robinson said. “The chief has directed us and given us our goal and our mission to go after violent crime and to stop violent crime, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
They get a weekly breakdown of criminal hot spots. I got a rare look at that breakdown and the list of the very people they believe are responsible.
“Our crime is in like pockets, and violence has consistently happened in particular neighborhoods,” Capt. Robinson said.
Robinson says if anything is going to change for good, homeowners need to get mad, get fed up with what police call a systemic problem of violence.
“You know, how do you change a culture? You have to have those people involved who experience that culture everyday to get involved,” Capt. Robinson said. “They’ve got to let the community know and let these individuals know that they’re tired of violence being committed in their community on a consistent basis.”
Until that happens, Robinson’s team will be on the street every night, going after the bad guys.