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Opinion: The work behind the significant crime reductions in St. Louis

At the start of 2024, I joined Mayor Tishaura O. Jones in releasing highlights of 2023 year-end crime data for the City of St. Louis. St. Louis today is safer this year than it was last year.

2023 marked the lowest number of homicides in a decade for our city. Data reveals a 21% reduction in murders (158 in 2023 compared to 200 in 2022); a 24% reduction in shooting incidents (550 in 2023 compared to 722 in 2022); and a 23% reduction in shooting victims (631 in 2023 compared to 821 in 2022). We reported sharp reductions in juvenile shooting incidents (47% decrease) and victims (50% decrease) compared with the prior year.

St. Louis saw a 22% reduction in overall Part 1 crimes, which include murder, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, felony theft and auto theft – and we saw reductions in the majority of these individual categories.

While these numbers are encouraging on their own, they are even more remarkable in context. Our reduction in murders last year follows a national trend, but our reductions also transcend pre-pandemic levels, and buck trends of increased fatalities in some cities in the region. This year marked a ten year low for homicides in St. Louis.

Another encouraging statistic is our 75% clearance rate for murder investigations, which is well above the national average.

I am heartened by our progress, but let me be clear – one life lost to violence is one too many and we have to keep up the work to save lives.

These year-end crime numbers are the result of the unyielding commitment of each member of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, both commissioned officers and civilian staff.

We have sharpened our implementation of our core crime prevention strategies, and have added other proven approaches that have been successful elsewhere.

Today, our layered strategies include a focus on the community – with the traditional tenets of community policing as well as district integrity, which involves assigning the same officers to the same areas each time they work. We have also embraced intelligence-led policing, as well as crime gun intelligence and partnerships with community organizations, partner law enforcement agencies and prosecutors.

Our department has implemented the CompStat methodology originally pioneered in New York City, and each week supervisors meet to review crimes and trends in their areas of responsibility, providing an opportunity for discussion about how to best deploy resources to address emerging patterns.

Finally, we support our officers who are serving their community. Our strategies include a focus on recruitment, retention and training, with an eye towards keeping our agency staffed with well-trained police officers who are ready to protect and serve our neighborhoods. Last year, our officers received historic raises in the midst of our academy launching four new classes. We also saw the return of 14 police officers who had previously left our agency for other opportunities.

As we enter 2024 on the heels of these impressive gains last year, we recognize that there remains much work to be done. We look forward to building on this progress, and to continuing to enhance public safety for all who live, work, and visit the city of St. Louis.