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St. Louis police chief wants special unit to target crime hot spots

St. Louis police chief wants special unit to target crime hot spots

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ST. LOUIS • In response to a recent spate of shootings and homicides across a smattering of north city neighborhoods, St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom announced plans Tuesday to form a special unit to support patrol officers in troubled areas.

The crime analysis unit is working to determine the specific areas, down to the block, where additional deployment is needed to curtail violent crime and permanently increase police visibility. Isom then plans to present plans for the new unit to the Board of Police Commissioners.

The number of officers assigned to the unit and a detailed deployment plan will be announced in the next six weeks.

Until the special unit can be formed, the department's 21-officer Mobile Reserve Unit will work almost exclusively in neighborhoods experiencing an increase in violent crimes.

The city has seen a jump in homicides in November compared with a year ago. As of Tuesday evening, there had been 25 homicides for the month compared with 15 last November.

But for the year, killings are down. As of Tuesday, there have been 128 homicides, compared with 135 at this time in 2009.

Overall, citywide violent crime is down 8 percent, the department said, but pockets of north city, particularly the Fairground, JeffVanderLou, O'Fallon, Mark Twain and North Point neighborhoods, have been plagued with shootings, especially recently.

In the last week, there has been a homicide or serious shooting involving multiple victims or a police officer five out of the last seven nights — all in north city neighborhoods.

The department currently has community response and special operations teams supplementing patrol officers in certain neighborhoods. The new unit will bolster police presence, patrol and investigations in hot spots.

"The overwhelming majority of our homicides are being committed as a result of gang and drug activity," Isom said in a statement. "And while some of these people are choosing to lead these lifestyles, the fact is, they are often leading them in a neighborhood filled with people who are making no such choice, people who are hardworking, law-abiding citizens and who want their neighborhoods back."

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