The St. Louis Metro Police Department and the mayor's office are focusing their crime response efforts this month on the College Hill neighborhood through a "hot-spot" policing initiative.
The project, promoted in a press event yesterday, is in response to recent crimes in the area including several homicides this year. The initiative also comes just two weeks before the mayoral primary election -- an increasingly contentious race where crime has become a central debate. Mayoral hopeful Lewis Reed has already slammed the effort as a "charm offensive."
"This is a concentrated effort," Maggie Crane, spokesperson for Mayor Francis Slay, tells Daily RFT. "And this is what hot-spot initiatives will look like from here on out."
What has the city actually accomplished so far?
Crane tells us that over a two-week period, police have made forty arrests and taken five guns off the street as part of the effort.
The city officially launched its second phase of the College Hill hot-spot initiative yesterday, which involves city crews securing vacant houses, cleaning up debris from alleys, fixing broken lights and making sure homeowners and landlords are bringing properties into building code compliance.
This is a priority of the city's new police chief Sam Dotson, Crane says.
"He talks about the broken window syndrome," she says. "If you see a bunch of broken windows, it gives the impression that no one cares...and that's where criminals will move in."
She says, "This is a start."
Crane says that yesterday the city trimmed dozens of trees, issued seventeen notices related to improperly tethered dogs, impounded several stray dogs and hauled out more than twenty loads of brush, bulk and tires from the neighborhood.
The College Hill project this month is the first concerted hot-spot effort of its kind in the city, which in the past has done these sorts of cleanups on smaller scales, in response to complaints or partnering with local organizations.
"This is what local control will look like in practice," Crane says.
The idea is to work with neighborhoods to help clean up specific areas and thus deter crime, she says.
"If you are proud of your city, proud of your neighborhood, you're gonna take a little bit better care of it," Crane says.
This will be a model going forward, she says.
That is, however, if Slay is re-elected.
Continue for response from the Reed campaign and for the full news release on Slay's College Hill initiative.