JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As violent crime in Missouri continues to dominate the conversation in the state Capitol, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis is set to receive a $1 million federal grant to expand its Serving Our Streets Initiative.
Gov. Mike Parson announced the funding Wednesday, saying it would help address the issues St. Louis is facing.
“For over a year, my administration has been working with community groups, civic leaders, clergies, law enforcement, and mayors across the state to find solutions to violent crime,” Parson said. “We know we have a serious issue with violent crime in Missouri, and the Serving Our Streets Initiative is a very valuable tool in addressing these issues at the local level. We are excited to see the initiative expand, which is another great step in our overall efforts to combat violent crime and make our communities safer.”
The program focuses on gun violence de-escalation and the distribution of resources to victims of crime. The initiative uses trained urban engagement specialists to connect with communities and engage with citizens in these targeted areas. Specialists build relationships and assist communities in developing solutions and procuring resources.
Parson said the funding had been in the works since last year, and community input was crucial to putting it in place.
“What we’re really trying to do is put people on the streets who are equipped to deal with the situation there, to deal with the mental health issues,” he said. “The reality of it is in those environments, if you get the right people in there they try to deescalate before we have these homicides. We’re glad to be able to present this today and give them the tools they need. It’s a good opportunity.”
The initiative will utilize money from the Community Services Block Grant, which allocates federal funds to communities facing poverty to increase employment, education, housing, and health care services.
Violent crime, especially in St. Louis, has been a focus for the governor over the summer. Parson called a special session to address violent crime in Missouri’s largest cities.
The city of St. Louis has had 191 murders so far this year, according to Parson — more than the 186 recorded for the whole of 2018 and well over the 138 recorded at the same time last year.
Two bills from the special session have been approved by both chambers and await the governor’s signature. HB 46 seeks to remove residency requirements for safety officers in St. Louis while HB 66 would create the “Pretrial Witness Protection Fund.”
Three other bills — regarding the endangerment of the welfare of a child, illegal transference of a weapon to a minor, and witness statements — will return to the House for further consideration.