I've got a wish.
I wish that one year from now some network reporter will come to St. Louis and report a story about how a north St. Louis neighborhood turned its fortunes around. How it went from one of the most violent neighborhoods in one of the most violent cities in America to a neighborhood free of gangs and free of gang violence.
I say this because today several current and former gang members cleaned up part of their neighborhood in the 21st ward in north St. Louis. What led to this? A shopkeeper who runs a small market in the neighborhood. He doesn't want to do interviews. He doesn't want attention. He told me this afternoon he's a "behind the scenes" guy.
A few weeks ago there was a spike in violence in and around this neighborhood. Five homicides and shootings. The next day we brought you the story of a prayer vigil in the neighborhood. Alderman Antonio French and some pastors said that after every shooting and homicide they would gather and have a public prayer session. They weren't going to give up on the neighborhood.
The shopkeeper was there as well. He talked to French and State Rep. Jamilah Nasheed. He brought together some of the gang members and the lawmakers. The gang members said, 'No media. No preachers." It was said they had a frank discussion. The gang members agreed to start to clean up the neighborhood. The lawmakers told me that the clean-up will continue week after week and cover block after block working its way to a neighboring community which is home of another gang. Lawmakers plan on meeting with those gang members in the coming week.
There's been a lot of talk about gangs and violence on the streets of St. Louis. A lot of talk but not a lot of success in bringing it to an end. Maybe this time it will be different. Like I said, maybe a year from now it will be getting all sorts of coverage and be a success story. We'll see.