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Murder Count Down This Year

Newly appointed Police Chief John Hayden at the press conference announcing his appointment on 12/28/17. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Last year, St. Louis City had the deadliest year in over two decades. We topped out at 205 homicides in the City limits last year which drove our number per 100,000 up. This year is a different story. We are actually way below where we were last year at this time but are also seeing a shift in where these things are happening. For better or for worse, you can decide what to think of the changes. Let's look at some numbers.

Last year, at this very time, St. Louis City had 195 recorded homicides. We already defeated 2016's numbers at this point which were topped out at 188 for the entire year. So far this year, we have had 169 homicides. A net change of -26 for the year which is a relief but isn't enough. Our ratio of murders per 100,000 people remains at 54.75 per 100,000. That's a significant downgrade from the 63.2 per 100,000 that we had last year at this same time. I know there are a lot of numbers here but they have to be said to give you an understanding of the state of the homicide rate.

This time last year consisted of the Central Corridor (Central Patrol) and North Patrol accounting for a vast majority of the homicides and contributed to the rise in rate. South St Louis (South Patrol) saw a decrease of 11 homicides last year from 2016 (28 to 17). This year, it's a different story. The North Patrol has seen a decrease of 37 homicides since last year while the Central Patrol has seen a decrease of 8 homicides since last year. The South Patrol has increase by 8 this year over last. Last ear's total for the South Patrol was 17 homicides, this year, it is up to 25.

The real time crime center. From SLMPD's Twitter page.

The numbers come at a time when the Police Department has a shortage in new recruits but comes after Police Chief John Hayden, replaced former temporary Chief Larry O'Toole. The large reductions in homicides could be attributed to the new leadership in the department but could also be contributed to the new technological advancements put in place by the department recently. Changes such as hot spot policing, community policing and the real time crime center have greatly increased safety and response time in troubled and once troubled neighborhoods. Else where, neighborhoods, like the Central West End, have hired off duty cops to police the neighborhood to make it safer for residents and visitors alike.

Other neighborhoods have even turned to watch groups. I primarily see these watch groups in upper-middle class neighborhoods on the South Side of the City. While I am sure they have caught a few criminals, I'm, not sure they have done enough to reduce the overall homicide count. In other places, the recent boom in Nest Cams and Ring doorbells have helped lead to crime reduction. No matter what has been tried and where, it seems to be working.

Now, I could be wrong about all of this and maybe the decrease in crime has been caused by the wicked weather we have had recently. I just don't know since I'm not in the police department. But I do know that the decrease in homicides is welcome news. Even though the numbers are still way higher than where they should be, we may be starting to get a grip. The end of year outlook appears to be set on us topping out at 175 homicides for the year in the City limits. This will be huge as a number that low hasn't been accomplished in 4 years. 2014 had 159 homicides while 2015 and 2016 had 188 respectively. The trend line appears to be trending down and if it can keep going down, surely we will have a better reputation across the nation.

Growth is almost certain if crime is handled. Photo by myself from "the Last Hotel".

As for now, we are booming and while the homicide count has and will continue to taint our City, St. Louis is riding high on civic pride. Recent announcements of the XFL coming to St. Louis and and the revival of the #MLS2STL effort has brought people together while neighborhood projects are strengthening and revitalizing neighborhoods throughout the city. Our own police department has even reached out to the people of the City with their Summer Time Ice Cream truck. That has helped form a better citizen-officer relationship in the City which is crucial for community trust following the controversies of the past 4 years. It is a city renaissance that is slow but welcome. A continued decrease in the homicide count will almost lead to a decrease in other types of violent crimes which in turn will drive more new developments and revitalization of neighborhoods.

For now, lets continue to hope that our homicide numbers continues to decrease while optimism and development soars. Only then will we be out of our rut and only then will our population loss turn into growth. We've bottomed out, but work still needs to be done and that work will be done, just it will be slower than expected.

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