Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Statistics Show St. Louis Crime Starting Modest Decline

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Statistics Show St. Louis Crime Starting Modest Decline

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * The worst of the city's crime spike could be behind us.

Data from the city's police department show total reported crimes, and the categories of crimes against persons and crimes against property, each declined from July to August, and declined again in September. Partial October information was not available.

It marked the first succession of decreases in more than a year.

Year-to-year comparisons of overall crime declined as well. By the end of July, overall crime was running 14 percent ahead of the year before. After August, it was 13 percent ahead, and at the end of September it was 10 percent.

Homicide numbers generally mounted through 2015. But unlike the broader crime categories, which mostly increased each month until tipping downward in August, murders have alternated up or down each month since April.

An increase in police activity, coupled with the cyclical nature of crime trends, could be responsible for decreasing numbers, according to Rick Rosenfeld, a University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist who studies the city's crime trends.

"But we have to be cautious from drawing meaning from just a few months," Rosenfeld said. "Typically we reserve judgments about what's driving crime until we have a 12-month perspective, but what's happening this year is that we were seeing large increases on a month-by-month basis, and that rate began to slow about two months ago.

"And that, of course, is good news if there is a decrease in the rate of the increase."

Police Chief Sam Dotson is cautious, but hopeful.

"Crime is still up, but it's trending in a more positive direction," he said Friday.

Dotson noted that in the past 20 years, the city's crime rates had spiked four times. And, each time, he said, that spike has lasted for two years.

"We've seen this cycle before and that's why it's important to look at three-, four- and five-year trends," he said. "It's like the stock market, crime goes up and down."

Rosenfeld and Dotson don't always agree. Dotson has a theory that the anti-police sentiment that followed a Ferguson officer's shooting of Michael Brown last year contributed to increased crime by demoralizing officers and contributing to a sense of "de- policing" that emboldened criminals. But Rosenfeld says city crime stats already were edging up before the Ferguson shooting.

Each week, Rosenfeld attends meetings in which police commanders use crime statistics to inform their decision-making. The so-called CompStat meetings, modeled after New York City Chief Bill Bratton's approach in the 1990s, also include reviews of officers' self- initiated activities.

Rosenfeld has noticed an increase since July in Field Interview Reports known as FIRs the documents officers fill out after every interaction. They note as much about a person as possible, including clothing, tattoos, hairstyle and any information they provide. …

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