ST. LOUIS -- The City of St. Louis will begin embarking on recommendations set forth by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Diagnostic Center to address youth-related gun violence by establishing a working group to assess and implement the guidance the City sought.
In late 2015, the City of St. Louis requested technical assistance from the DOJ to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the City-wide gun violence enforcement strategies as well as recommendations on evidence-based strategies to reduce the City's high rate of gun violence. The request was based on the City's PIER Plan to prevent and reduce violent crime through community-based preventative strategies, data-driven police enforcement, and robust reentry services.
The DOJ granted the City's request as a result of its Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) designation, which allowed the City to tap into various federal resources for technical assistance and advice. The Diagnostic Center aims to improve access to information on what works in preventing and controlling crime, as well as to provide guidance on how to implement data-driven programming. Diagnostic Center services are customized for each community.
Since January 2016, the Diagnostic Center has worked with the City to develop and assess strategies that are data-driven and effective in reducing gun violence –particularly among youth aged 16-24. Together with University of Missouri-St. Louis Criminologist Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, who works embedded in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD), the Diagnostic Center analyzed data, conducted stakeholder interviews, and performed community-level research before making recommendations.
"The Diagnostic Center's St. Louis project is an excellent example of a federal-local partnership to address violent crime," Dr. Rosenfeld said. "Every resident of our region should carefully consider the diagnosis and recommendations for reducing intolerably high levels of violence in our most vulnerable communities."
Gun crimes are one of the most severe and pressing issues facing the St. Louis community. Guns are prevalent in the City. In the past five and a half years, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) has taken more than 10,000 illegally-owned firearms off the streets. In 2016 alone, the SLMPD seized 2,161 illegally-owned guns, and 519 illegal firearms have been seized so far this year.
As part of the City's application seeking assistance from the DOJ, it noted that of the 188 homicides St. Louis experienced in 2015, nearly all of them -- 179 -- involved the use of a gun. That trend continues today.
"We know from our analysis that perpetrators of violent gun crime are often young adults, and the severity of crime escalates as they get older and have access to illegal weapons," SLMPD Chief Sam Dotson said. "Using the DOJ Diagnostic Center's recommendations, we will focus on implementing initiatives geared at interrupting the cycle of violence. We are committed to working with stakeholders to ensure all available resources are being used to combat gun violence in St. Louis."
Other factors that contributed to youth gun violence included the level of educational attainment and highly-concentrated disadvantages, such as individuals living below the poverty line, receiving public assistance, in female-headed households, unemployed, or under the age of 18.
In addition to assessing and implementing the recommendations set forth by the DOJ's Diagnostic Center, the City of St. Louis also has joined the Violence Reduction Network, created the Gun Intelligence Center in the SLMPD to better link crimes committed with the same weapon or by the same group of individuals and focus on nonfatal shootings that often drive future homicides.
Over the coming weeks the City of St. Louis will identify which of the DOJ's recommended strategies to implement. The DOJ will then provide training and technical assistance to the SLMPD and other City departments as they begin working to reduce violent gun crime in the City of St. Louis.
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