Families urged to keep kids from being unattended downtown at night after violent weekend in STL

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 7:39 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Following a violent weekend in the city, particularly one in the downtown area Sunday night, St. Louis public safety leaders are issuing a call to families to keep young people from hanging out downtown unsupervised.

“Do not drop your children off downtown unsupervised. We want your families to be safe, and large groups roaming late at night is not safe,” said Public Safety Director Dr. Dan Isom. “Disruptive behavior draws resources away from preventing crime in our neighborhoods. I understand that our youth needs something to do and a place to go, but downtown is not the place to bring children who are unsupervised.”

During Monday’s weekly Downtown Public Safety and Engagement meeting, Isom expressed concern with the number of juveniles hanging near Kiener Plaza just before someone fired shots into a crowd.

“Following the Annie Malone parade, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) received multiple calls regarding groups of juveniles congregating at Kiener Plaza. Late in the evening, a group formed at the intersection of 9th and Pine. Our officers responded to this location, and a city-wide call went out with multiple districts responding,” said Isom.

Thankfully, no one was hurt in the shooting, but as of Monday afternoon, the suspect still has not been caught. Police are using surveillance to identify the suspect.

“We don’t want to suggest that these are bands of young kids who are running around committing heinous crimes, but they are being disruptive to the downtown area,” said Isom. “Whether its scooters or having fights or congregating in the streets. Those types of things are nuisance behavior, which if you have a parent or guardian with them, they would control that type of behavior.”

Isom does say they are trying to determine how they can shift personnel around to have a larger police presence on weekends and nights. However, he also says if families are making sure kids are not out on the streets late at night in the downtown area, police could better divert their resources to other calls in the city.

Visitors in St. Louis Monday told News 4 they heard, and some even saw, the chaos happening downtown Sunday night, which gives them pause as they consider whether or not to come back and visit at night.

“It definitely gives pause of like, ‘We’re going to a new place, we don’t know what’s happening specifically in that situation,” said Macy Ruple, who is visiting from Illinois. “I think it’s just [the] overarching stress of violence increasing in America as a whole.”

Miriam, a visitor from Czechoslovakia, said she was initially worried about coming downtown after reading about this and other weekend incidents involving gun violence.

“As a European, I prefer to walk downtown or prefer to take public transport, so because of the security issues and everything I read in news, we took the car,” she said.

Isom says there is already a curfew for juveniles in the city. The SLMPD website lists those curfew times from midnight to 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the week. He did not indicate whether there would be any additional enforcement done on this issue.

“Hopefully this was attributed to the parade and spillover from the parade, and we’ll just evaluate it each weekend to see how it goes,” he said about the weekend crowds.

Apart from this incident, Isom called this a particularly violent weekend for the city.

In five out of the six homicides that occurred over the weekend, Isom says police believe the victim and shooter were known to each other. The one shooting police still have questions about motive is the death of a 16-year-old girl in South City. She is also a sophomore at Eureka High School.

“We’re not sure at this time of the details of that. We don’t have a lot of information,” said Isom. “[Police are] in the process of trying to locate video, pull video footage, so we can determine the exact details of that incident.”

As far as whether these incidents in the city and downtown may encourage more policing during big sporting events like Cardinals games and Blues playoff games, Isom says safety is already being taken care of.

“We already have special enforcement in place. As you can see, when there is a Blues game or Cardinals game, both the Blues and the Cardinals pay for supplemental patrols, supplemental presences,” said Isom. “So, that is not done through the police department, but as good civic partners, they’re taking the responsibility themselves to add more security both to the ballpark and to the hockey arena.”