Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Homicides Plummet in City, County Region Follows Trend toward Less Violence

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Homicides Plummet in City, County Region Follows Trend toward Less Violence

Article excerpt

St. Louis and St. Louis County had fewer murders in 1996 than in any other year during the 1990s, according to figures released Tuesday.

Not counting Tuesday, homicides in St. Louis for 1996 totaled 167 - the lowest in six years and 100 fewer than the record number of murders in 1993.

St. Louis County also had fewer murders than any other year this decade and the lowest in 20 years. A total of 31 people were murdered in the county as of Tuesday compared with 42 in 1995 and a record high of 61 in 1993. Like cities such as Boston, where the number of homicides hit a 30-year low, St. Louis has had a major decline in murders - more than 20 percent from 1995. St. Louis Police Chief Ron Henderson said that many types of crime are declining, not just homicide, largely due to more community policing. "It's very difficult to point to one reason crime goes down," he said, "but it never hurts to have a visible police department. Being visible decreases the likelihood of a crime occurring, and our being there helps law-abiding citizens take charge of their neighborhoods again." In addition to Boston, murders also fell in New York, Dallas, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and other cities. Experts credited police forces for getting tougher on violent crime. "Most of the major cities reached a point where they said, `We have to do something,' " said Dennis Kenney, research director at the Police Executive Research Forum. Boston Police Commissioner Paul F. Evans said his city's force has cracked down on gun trafficking and high-risk probationers, while cooperating with state and federal law enforcement, community groups and clergy members. "We're policing far differently than we did several years ago," Evans said. "In the '70s and early '80s, we said, `We'll solve the problems. We're the professionals.' We've opened the process up and made people feel that they're part of the solution." Boston had 58 murders in 1996, through Monday. That's fewer homicides than during any 12-month period since 1966. …

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