Reducing juvenile crime was the focus in latest St. Louis County Crime Commission meeting

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 6:31 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV) -- The St. Louis County Police Department and leadership at the county detention center agreed that one issue with cutting down on juvenile crime and repeat offenders is the Missouri Legislature’s decision to increase the age to be tried as an adult from 17 to 18. That bill became law back in 2018.

An example St. Louis County Police Deputy Chief Bryan Ludwig provided to the commission was the spike in stolen vehicles in 2022. He said many of those incidents involved juveniles. He said police would take juveniles into custody, place them at the county detention center just for them to be released and in several cases be arrested again within the next month.

As a result, Ludwig said the police department teamed up with the juvenile courts to modify how juveniles are taken into custody.

Rick Gaines is the chief juvenile officer of the 21st Judicial Circuit of St. Louis County. The Juvenile Office handles cases relating to, “Missouri’s Juvenile Code, which include but are not limited to, abuse and neglect, delinquency, and termination of parental rights matters.”

He told the commission he needs its support to staff at least five vacant positions as of this month.

“Our detention facility, our staff. I know when I have 48 kids in my building right now,” Gaines explained. “I don’t have enough staff, not enough (full-time employees) to manage over 48 kids in my building. That impacts us.”

Gaines said 17-year-olds make up the largest population inside the county detention center right now.

City and county police collaborate at their borders

The St. Louis County Police Department said it’s in constant communication with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and other agencies in an effort to crack down on criminals trying to evade arrest by traveling to other municipalities.

County PD Public Information Supervisor Sgt. Tracy Panus told News 4 her department is continuously sharing information with SLMPD, Jefferson, Franklin, and St. Charles Counties to stop these fleeing criminals.

“We work closely to share this information because our criminals don’t know borders,” Panus explained. “They go back and forth between the city and Illinois up to St. Charles County. We are constantly sharing information. Each day that sharing process improves.

St. Louis County Police report more than 1,300 drivers have failed to yield when a police officer attempted to make a traffic stop.

“Once we turn our lights on and they take off, we have no control over what they do,” Ludwig shared. “You have seen in the news, several high profile accidents and fatalities as a result of some of these failure to yields.”

A show of force, yielding results

Another discussion during the crime commission’s gathering Thursday was kudos for the Violent Crime Initiative. This is a task force made of about 40 officers at the local, state, and federal levels. The St. Louis County Police Department credits this group for getting illegal guns off county roads. Using “hot spot enforcement,” this task force removed 337 stolen firearms off county streets in 2022. This same group has collected 137 stolen firearms this year.

County PD said that’s playing a major role in reducing crimes, including robbery with firearms and aggravated assaults.

The St. Louis County Crime Commission is scheduled to meet next on August 24.