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Overtime for officers, plans for security cameras and license plate readers for St. Louis to battle violent crime

Overtime for officers, plans for security cameras and license plate readers for St. Louis to battle violent crime

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ST. LOUIS — Amid concern about violent crime in the city, Mayor Lyda Krewson on Monday briefed St. Louis aldermen in her City Hall office on what her administration is doing to address the problem.

Gun violence has claimed the lives of at least 13 children in the city of St. Louis this year, including a 15-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl who were added to the toll this weekend in separate incidents. No one has been charged in any of the deaths.

Police Chief John Hayden and Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards also were on hand for the session, which the mayor said lasted about 90 minutes.

“We wanted to make sure everybody had the same knowledge base,” Krewson said after the meeting, which was not made public in advance. 

Among other things, the mayor said, Hayden said he had deployed additional officers to investigate homicides and had “ramped up” the police department’s use of overtime. 

Krewson said she reiterated Saturday’s announcement of the $25,000 rewards offered for information related to recent child deaths and her request that the Cure Violence initiative be launched quickly.

She also said she would try to find funding “to quickly add” more security cameras and license plate readers around the city.

And she said she had sought state assistance in a call Monday to Gov. Mike Parson, such as deploying the Missouri Highway Patrol in the city. She said her push to repeal the city residency rule, in part to make it easier to fill police vacancies, also was mentioned.

One of the alderman attending, Jeffrey Boyd, D-22nd Ward, said aldermen also asked questions of the mayor and the others.

Boyd said another point made was that police have been focusing more on drug activity.

“Last week was a bad week,” Boyd said in an interview. “Our constituents are concerned, they’re afraid. They deserve some kind of answer.”

Boyd and Alderman Brandon Bosley, D-3rd Ward, both commended the mayor for holding the session.

“I think it was the first of many productive meetings that need to be had,” said Bosley, who earlier this year had sharply criticized the mayor for supporting the now-suspended Better Together campaign. “It's a really good start. To see everybody come and really be concerned, to move forward, it was inspiring.”

Another attendee, Joe Vaccaro, D-23rd Ward, alleged that the meeting — which the mayor said was attended by at least a majority of the 29 board members — violated the state Sunshine Law because it was not announced in advance to the public. Vaccaro and Bosley both said about 20 aldermen were present while another member, Jack Coatar, D-7th Ward, said it was 10 to 12. Another alderman present said the number varied, as aldermen entered and left at different times.

Krewson said she believed that holding the private session was allowed under the Sunshine Law because it was a briefing and not a formal Board of Aldermen meeting. She said there were no detailed discussions of legislation and “no decisions made.”

The mayor also told aldermen that one of the weekend homicide victims was a woman who worked for city government.

Rick Frank, city personnel director, said that victim, Antoinette Banks, had been a secretary in the city neighborhood stabilization office. Banks' 10-year-old daughter, Nyla Banks, also was killed.

Police transfers criticized

In an internal memo sent Monday afternoon, Chief Hayden announced that six detectives and a sergeant were being transferred into the homicide unit effective immediately.

The need for more detectives in homicide was articulated in a series of tweets on Sunday by Heather Taylor, president of the Ethical Society of Police, whose membership consists primarily of black officers from St. Louis city and county police departments.

“We must staff homicide w/more manpower during the timeframes that data shows murders are occurring,” wrote Taylor, a police sergeant in the homicide division. “Like my shift, which leads the city, we already exceeded the recommended national average for scenes.”

But the transfers announced Monday by Hayden were sharply criticized by Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Association, the bargaining unit for officers.

Roorda said only two of the seven new additions to the homicide unit have experience as detectives, and the others are officers.

“We need more guys on the street,” Roorda said. “We’re 153 officers down, yet almost of the department’s specialized units and cush jobs are fully staffed.

“We’re suffering when it comes to our presence on the street and that’s why crime is out of control. Now, they’re taking more officers off the street when we’re already short-handed. It’s just going to make criminals more brazen.”

Roorda also was critical of Krewson’s plan to “ramp up” overtime.

“Instead of ramping up OT, let's pay a competitive wage so we can fill the vacancies and do really something about the murders and violence once and for all,” he said.

Christine Byers of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

Coverage of children who died in the St. Louis area in 2019

These are the local incidents of homicide or neglect involving children, based on Post-Dispatch reporting. This list doesn't include children killed in car accidents (unless a criminal charge was filed) or incidents not being investigated by homicide detectives.

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