Business leaders tackle homicides as St. Louis region’s number one priority in new report

St. Louis business leaders are stepping up to tackle what they say is a priority issue in the St. Louis Metro region: homicides.
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 6:04 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - St. Louis business leaders are stepping up to tackle what they say is a priority issue in the St. Louis Metro region: homicides.

“High levels of homicide drive the region’s reputation as an unsafe place that makes it difficult to recruit business to the region, makes it more difficult to retain business. It leads to population loss, a shrinking tax base,” said Richard Rosenfeld, Professor Emeritus of Criminology at UMSL.

In a comprehensive policy report, spearheaded by Greater St. Louis Inc. and the Regional Business Council, data points and graphs illustrate homicides as a growing problem for the 15-county Bi-state St. Louis Region, and it makes an argument for leaders across the region to put this as a number one priority. Rosenfeld helped business leaders gather data for the policy report.

“The study was done to call attention to that problem and call for a region wide commitment to reduce homicide in the first instance and non-fatal violent crime as well using evidence based and effective programs,” said Rosenfeld.

News 4 talked with Greater St. Louis Inc. CEO Jason Hall about the report on Friday.

“When you still look at the data, we believe there is a homicide crisis and we need to target that,” said Hall. “And in order to do that, we need to establish that as the challenge, that we have to accept that. Get all the critical stakeholders to align strategies and resources and scale with clear goals to bring that down. And if we do that, we’ll make our community safer, and it’s going to make us even more globally competitive so that we can reach our full potential as a region.”

The 32-page report ranks the St. Louis metro region fourth for homicide rates behind Memphis, New Orleans and Baltimore. WHILE the report also notes total crime rates per capita did go down between 2007 and 2020 by 32 percent across the St. Louis MSA, violent crime remains almost 20 percent higher than the U.S. Metro average.

Hall says if the region focuses on bringing homicide numbers down, other aspects of violent crime will also come down.

“And then identify some of the strategies and interventions we can do at scale. Not a one off here, not a one off there, but really at scale and go big on some of these programmatic interventions. We think that’s going to be the right approach here,” he said.

City and council leaders are already showing support for the business community’s efforts to prioritize this issue for the region.

“I would say to the business community, ‘Welcome back to the fight. Now I know our side will win’,” said St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann. “The business community has shown an interest in the past on crime, but lately they have been concentrating, and their organizations have been concentrating, more on economic development [and] less on education and crime. I think they lost sight perhaps of the fact that if you don’t take care of the crime problem first, you’re not going to be able to attract business here.”

Ehlmann says with this focus on tackling crime first, he hopes more agencies across each city and county will work together.

“If we could get every police department in every jurisdiction agreeing to cooperate with each other, I think we’d make it a lot tougher on the criminals,” said Ehlmann.

Hall believes this study will open the door for more collective solutions, like policing, job access, tackling problem properties, or other strategies the bistate can remain focused on together.

“All options should be on the table on this,” he said.

News 4 asked the mayor’s office for comment on this study, but she was not available to comment on Friday. A spokesperson for her office says Jones has been supportive of regional approaches to ending crime, including creating a Regional Crime Summit, which is set to happen next week. This summit will be hosted by the East West Gateway Council of Governments and it will convene a variety of people from elected leaders, police, prosecutors, educators, the business community, human service providers, religious organizations, and outside experts.