New St. Louis downtown report highlights need for more policing, crime prevention

One of St. Louis City’s biggest annual trade shows is underway at America’s Center for the last time for the foreseeable future.
Published: Jun. 13, 2023 at 8:23 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - One of St. Louis City’s biggest annual trade shows is underway at America’s Center for the last time for the foreseeable future.

“We think that DOT foods really kind of represents the tip of the iceberg,” said Les Sterman.

Last week, News 4 reported that DOT Foods would not be bringing back its Innovation Trade Show to downtown St. Louis after being a part of the city for more than 20 years. A spokesperson for DOT Foods sent the following statement:

Our trade show is contracted to be held in Denver at the Colorado Convention Center in 2024 and 2025. We will continue to consider St. Louis in our RFP process for future shows.

Several factors led us to the decision of moving our show. We have also moved other events, like our national business meeting and other smaller gatherings out of the downtown area. Safety is always a primary factor in our decisions. Other things that we need to take into consideration with the size of our show include exhibit hall and dock space, proximity and size of hotels and event venues, and direct flight availability. The additional security we have to hire is also a factor. The number of hotels within a safe walking distance is one of the benefits we’ve found in other cities we’ve researched as potential sites for our event. Denver offers more direct flights than St. Louis Lambert Airport, and we are hopeful that helps driver higher attendance. We ask our attendees for feedback each year, and that also factors into the decisions we make for future events. Attendee feedback was part of the consideration in selecting a new location.

On Monday, Mayor Tishaura Jones responded to the company’s decision not to return next year.

“Well, we still have others that we can slide in there. I know that our convention and visitors’ commission is very busy making sure that they reach out to organizations,” said Jones. “While we are sad to see DOT Foods make this decision, they could possibly come back next year. That’s still an opportunity.”

Among a number of decisions to change their city destination, DOT Foods has cited concerns with downtown safety.

“We’ve had dozens of wake-up calls over the last couple of years,” said Sterman.

Sterman, along with other members of Citizens for a Greater Downtown St. Louis, introduced a new report addressing some of the recent concerns with downtown violence.

“Based on the numbers, we should have about 50 police officers dedicated to downtown,” said Sterman.

The report, Downtown St. Louis Safety and Security: Understanding the Level of Police Presence draws from police data as well as a report published by the Center for Policing Equity for the city in April 2022.

In this report, it states 25% of all citywide crime happens in the 4th District, which is the downtown and downtown west area. The downtown area is experiencing 3,808 crimes per square mile compared to the city’s average of 885.

“We can either increase the number of police in our neighborhoods and in downtown in particular, or we can reduce their workload by controlling some of the places that create opportunities for crime,” said Sterman.

In response to this report, St. Louis Metropolitan Police tell News 4 they are experiencing the same staffing challenges as other cities across the country. Right now, the department is short 270 commissioned positions:

“While we will not disclose exact figures related to allocation of commissioned personnel, we can confirm that currently District Four has more assigned commissioned personnel than any other district in the City of St. Louis.

“Our officers and commanders regularly attend community meetings within various neighborhoods throughout the City of St. Louis and the number one complaint we hear from all citizens across the board is they all want to see more police officers. We strive to provide all citizens in every community with the level of service they expect and deserve from their police department.”

Sterman says this report does not put the ownness solely on increasing police presence. It also notes that the city must come up with solutions to deter crime where it tends to occur, further reducing the workload that police may face.

“We’ve got to make the job of the police easier,” said Sterman.

He says addressing crime concerns with short-term rentals and making safety improvements to parking lots across the downtown area is a start, both of which are currently up for consideration through bills moving through the Board of Alderman.

“I’m not sure I’ve actually seen that report, so I don’t want to comment on something that I haven’t read. I will say that violence in any part of our city Is unacceptable,” said Board of Alderman President Megan Green. “We have been working to introduce the legislation that provides regulations around surface parking lots, which I know is one of the things that folks downtown have asked for, and we look forward to continuing to partner with downtown groups to develop solutions.”

As for this week’s trade show, a spokesperson for dot foods tells News 4 they’re working with city officials, hotel management, police and other groups to implement safety plans for this week’s event.