Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Local Officers Convinced Conference on Crime Pays

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Local Officers Convinced Conference on Crime Pays

Article excerpt

Law officers from the St. Louis area worried Wednesday that they might have been invited to another crime conference where federal officials propose solutions with little hope for success.

But many came away satisfied that Washington knows the nature of local problems. They left behind their own opinions about handguns and rural crime, and about politicians who prey on frightened people.

Festus Police Chief Ronald J. Scaggs said: "I came her as a skeptic, quite honestly. We're having so many crime summits."

He said afterward that he believes the federal government understands that crime plagues quiet neighborhoods and small towns, not just urban streets.

Police and prosecutors from the St. Louis area were among 200 Midwesterners who received a high-level briefing on what the federal government could and might do to combat crime.

In a building near the White House, Vice President Al Gore, Attorney General Janet Reno and Cabinet members took turns explaining what federal anti-crime legislation might do and answering those who deal with lawlessness every day.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Dee Joyce-Hayes said she is concerned that inflammatory talk by political leaders does little to reduce crime. But she said afterward that the closed-door conference was generally free of posturing.

"One of the things that pleased me is the understanding I saw of the level of dialogue that is needed," she said. "There's an obligation that we as leaders have to lower the temperature a bit while addressing these problems."

Some who made the trip wish they'd have heard more about related problems. The Rev. Sal Polizzi, a community leader and pastor at St. Roch's Catholic Church in St. Louis, asserted during the conference that too little attention is paid to victims of crime.

"Nobody talked about the victims, about their families, about the people left lying in hospitals," Polizzi said later during a second meeting about crime held in the office of House Majority Leader Richard A. …

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