St. Louis City police, public safety leaders address recent uptick in homicides

A surveillance image has been released showing a suspect sought in connection with an August 15 murder in south St. Louis.
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 8:46 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - As summer winds down, the City of St. Louis Is facing a growing crime trend in homicides.

“Unfortunately, we were slightly ahead of where we were last year,” said Public Safety Director Dr. Dan Isom.

The City of St. Louis currently has 129 homicides. At this same time last year, the city recorded 121 homicides. The last four happened on Sunday night in a span of five hours.

“Any homicide, any loss of life is distressing, but when it happens in such a short period of time, [it] is certainly cause for concern,” said Isom. “Also, in addition to the fact that we don’t find any connection between the four.”

Isom said St. Louis police believe the homicide that happened off Grand and Broadway was the result of an altercation between several people, and police have some potential leads on who the suspects could be.

During Monday’s downtown public safety briefing, Isom addressed questions as to why St. Louis is experiencing an uptick in violent crime, he attributed it to several factors.

“One, we’ve had a serious explosion in these stolen KIAs and Hyundai’s, which I think offer availability for mobile crimes, and they are being used in certain violent crimes,” said Isom. “This is one issue that has changed and accelerated in the last month or so.”

Two, he says it could also be the rise in dangerous weapons on the street.

“Meaning guns that can be transitioned to fully automatic. Of course, a gun that is fully automatic is going to be way more lethal than one that’s not,” said Isom. “I think our primary focus right now is enforcement in trying to slow down the violence that’s happening in this community through physical presence, through intelligence, through trying to close these cases as quickly as possible to hold people accountable.”

As of August 20, only 54 percent of homicides have been solved in the City of St. Louis.

“It has been reported that our numbers are down somewhat significantly from last year as well in terms of officers,” said Isom. “However, we have been doing the 12 hour shifts to compensate for that.”

News 4 checked in with the St. Louis Police Officers Association on what they think has contributed to the rise in recent violent crime. President Jay Schroder believes the ongoing shortage of police officers is among the issues that has taken a toll on the community. Right now, he says the department is about 300 positions short.

“We’re drastically underpaid compared to departments all around. We used to be one of the better paying departments and now we’re $20,000 dollars behind our people in St. Louis County, so we’re not competitive. We’re not keeping up with the rest of the folks around us,” said Schroder. “It’s going to be a team effort for everyone. it’s going to have to be the police department and the city, they’re going to have to get behind their policemen, to pay their policemen. And they’re going to have to show the guys that ride the streets every day that people actually care.”

Earlier this June, SLMPD institute 12-hour mandatory shifts on the weekends for police across the city to address some of the growing crime trends over the summer, but that policy is expected to end at the end of the month.

However, Isom says the city’s focus will still be having police presence in high crime areas.

“We will continue to look at personnel and our manpower and try to adjust it to the areas we think will have the most impact,” said Isom. “We have worked officers very hard for the last couple of months working 12-hour shifts, and it certainly has helped, but we have to recognize that we have to give officers a break as well.”

“I’m really hoping that in St. Louis we’re able to say from this point on, we will begin to scale up what works, because we can get out in front of this,” said James Clark, Vice President of Public Safety for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

Clark tells News 4 that for years he has been saying the solution is prioritizing education and outreach in communities and homes where the crime is taking place.

“It starts with the neighborhoods, and it starts with resources in the neighborhood,” said Clark.

Yet, amid violence this past weekend, there was a new symbol of hope on display in the city. A peace sign is now up on display on the wall off 4230 Manchester Avenue in the Grove. Kyle Holbrook, a Miami-based muralist who created the artwork, tells News 4 this is part of an anti-gun violence initiative he started over a year ago.

“It’s bringing awareness to the issue, an epidemic that we are in as a city and as a country of gun violence, but it’s not anti-gun,” said Holbrook.

St. Louis marks the 42nd city he’s been to in the country to create one of these murals, and he hopes to reach all 50 states by sometime next year.

It is especially important to him after losing 46 friends to gun violence over the course of his life.

“And the intent is families will know and friends of lost loved ones will know that this is done with their lost loved one in mind,” said Holbrook.