By Brian Flinchpaugh
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Bookmark and Share
A combination of more police, targeting enforcement in high crime areas, neighborhood cooperation, and prisoners not let out of jail early are why crime was down in St. Louis County last year, said St. Louis County Police Chief Col. Timothy Fitch.
St. Louis County Police Chief Timothy Fitch, along with other county police and officials, talked Thursday at a news conference why crime was down last year in St. Louis County.
St. Louis County Police Chief Timothy Fitch (left) talked Thursday at a news conference about why crime appears to have dropped in the county in 2009.
County police said Thursday they recorded the second lowest number of serious crimes in the last 20 years in the unincorporated area and in municipalities where they provided law enforcment. Their statistics show an overall reduction in serious crimes of 12.3 percent.
“There have been large reductions in the north county precinct and the central county precinct,” Fitch said at a news conference Thursday afternoon at police headquarters in Clayton. “However, every precinct was down and every category was down.”
There was a drop in every crime category reported to the FBI and a decrease in all seven precincts.
Police said there were 13 murders reported in 2009 compared to 15 in 2008, resulting in a decrease in murder of 13.3 percent. The number of rapes has decreased 1.2 percent, robbery decreased 7.0 percent and aggravated assault decreased 16.8 percent.
Arson decreased by 27.1 percent, burglary decreased 22.1 percent, motor vehicle theft decreased by 21.3 percent and larceny—which included car break-ins--decreased by 7.7 percent.
Broken down further, the county lists 11,084 serious crimes in 2009 in eight categories, compared to 12,642 in 2008. These categories are murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny or theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The county listed a lower serious crime total in 2004—10,644—but nothing lower since 1991.
Fitch said some of the reasons for reduction including having more officers on the street and implementing several new enforcement initiatives that targeted high crime areas. A county youth initiative allowed 14 officers to be added and the department reorganized its staff, he said.
In all, Fitch said the county had 38 additional officers available last year, resulting in an increase in arrests and quicker response times
The department has also stepped up community policing programs, recruiting citizens to participate as volunteers, as well working with specific neighborhoods on Neighborhood Watch programs that alert police to possible criminal activity, he said.
Fitch also said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch and area officials have been more stringent about prisoners serving more of their original court sentences with less early parole. The result is that more potential criminals remain off local streets longer, he said.
That may end if police and prisons have to reduce staff and become more willing to open their gates to allow prisoners early paroles, he said.
“My opinion is that if police departments do that, if prisons do that, if they have to reduce staff and they allow people out early, we will see and increase in crime,” Fitch said.
Meanwhile, the county plans to continue initiatives in areas that have had high crime in the past, particularly in the Spanish Lake and Glasgow Village areas of North County. Yet, Capt. Troy Doyle, commander of the North County Precinct, said serious crime was down here. “It was across the board,” he said.
County police are also working closely with the St. Louis Police Department on initiatives targeting gangs and youth. Doyle said he’s also meeting with north county municipal police officials on a regular basis.
Fitch said another area where county police are targeting enforcement is the Fenton area in south county, which has many new businesses that may draw criminal activity.
Reducing crime also may play a role in attracting new business because business owners want to locate in areas with low crime, he said. The department receives many calls from businesses asking about crime rates.
Fitch and McCulloch were among county and police officials, including County Executive Charlie Dooley, who attended the news conference. When asked to comment, Dooley was succinct.
“Crime is down, that’s a good thing,” he said.