ST. LOUIS • The city’s population dropped last year, but reported violent crime increased.
That’s the takeaway from the FBI’s 2017 Uniform Crime Report. The city’s population dropped by 1.3 percent, or more than 4,000 people compared with the prior year. The number of reported violent crimes increased by almost 450, a 7.4 percent increase.
The trend also appears over five years of data. The city had 8,000 more residents in 2013 and almost 1,400 fewer reported violent crimes.
A Post-Dispatch analysis of city police data showed the largest increases in violent crime between 2016 and 2017 occurred in the St. Louis Hills, Southwest Garden and Holly Hills neighborhoods.
In 2017, neighborhoods with the highest number of reported violent crimes were Dutchtown, Wells Goodfellow and Downtown West.
But the news is not all doom and gloom, according to Rick Rosenfeld, a professor emeritus of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He specializes in studying FBI crime data.
“If we compare where we are now in 2018 with the same point last year, the (city) police department is recording fewer homicides, fewer gun-related assaults and fewer robberies,” Rosenfeld said. “We are seeing violent crime subside somewhat in the city over the past year, and one hopes those trends continue.”
The St. Louis police crime statistics report through August this year reflected a 15 percent drop in homicides compared to the same time period last year.
The 2017 FBI report showed flattening violent crime nationwide, Rosenfeld said. He was not surprised to see this trend.
Violent crime increases in 2015 and 2016 could be attributed to rising tension between local communities and police departments and the opioid epidemic. The former cause seems to have settled down, Rosenfeld said, leading to a slight drop in violent crime.
“Research suggests when people begin to believe the legitimacy of police is declining, more crime, especially violent, is the result,” he said.
Whether there was a similar flattening of the opioid epidemic isn’t clear.
“I’ve done some research on this, and there appears to be connection between a rise in opioid use, and death rates and homicides. As people began entering the illicit drug market in search of heroin and synthetic opioids, those are violent social spaces and homicides went up as a result.”
Statewide, both population and reported violent crimes increased.