Dispute surrounds St. Louis role in federal program to reduce violent crime

ST. LOUIS - The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced a new plan in which 12 cities will receive more federal manpower to combat violent crime. St. Louis was not on the list, but does already participate in a federally funded anti-crime program.

Forbes magazine recently labeled St. Louis the second most dangerous city in America. So when the DOJ passes on providing more help to fight violent crime, it gets noticed here.

“Let me tell you…I was furious!” said State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-District 5). “At a time when we're one of the top four in the country with highest murder rate, I was appalled.”

The Trump administration’s Public Safety Partnership will take the place of a pilot program called the Violence Reduction Network, of which St. Louis was—and still is—a part of and receiving assistance.

Some of the cities receiving assistance in the recently announced list include Kansas City, Missouri; Springfield, Illinois; and Indianapolis.

"We will continue working with existing VRN sites like St. Louis. We are anticipating cities will be announced later this year,” said Devin O'Malley, Department of Justice.

That program, launched in 2014, coordinated training and technical assistance to communities in their fight against rising crime. Nasheed said it’s clearly not working and now the new program is looking elsewhere.

“We have to start catching criminals,” she said. “I truly believe when criminals are not caught, it only emboldens the next criminal to pick up a gun and commit a murder, because they know they will get away with it.”

Nasheed is referring to the city's roughly 65 percent rate of unsolved murders.

"The city already has a partnership with the DoJ to reduce gun violence,” said Koran Addo, a spokesperson for Mayor Lyda Krewson. “The mayor is set to discuss that and strategies for fighting violent crime next week."

Nasheed said the city needs significant assistance from the federal government.

“Whatever they have available to help us and aid us in St. Louis is what we need,” she said.

The Department of Justice said it is not giving out any grants.