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St. Louis police launch pilot program to fight gun crime

ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is adding another tool in its arsenal when it comes to tackling gun crime.

With the help of a grant, the Police Prosecutor Partnership Initiative allows officers to walk and canvass neighborhoods to collect shell casings following reports of shots fired.

The grant calls for police and prosecutors to work together on the Gun Crime Intelligence Model and provides funding for a prosecutor dedicated to the Gun Crime Intelligence Center.

Jane Darst, who is the grant coordinator with the department, said that when no one calls for service after shots are fired, with the help of the city’s ShotSpotter system, detectives are able to determine where the incident may have occurred.

“Our officers come out and look for those casings so that we can take them to the lab and make a determination to see if it’s connected to any other shootings that have occurred,” Darst said.

The department said that the program’s initiative to tackle gun crime goes beyond the ever-changing and advancing technology.

“You’re out in the alleys where there is a lot of clutter and you’re trying to find tiny shell casings,” said Detective Joseph Bell. “So yeah, it’s tedious but it’s worth it.”

Darst and members of the intelligence center are leaving door hangers on the homes of where the shots are fired.

“We just started with the door hangers that gives people the information that if they have heard or have any information about a particular incident where shots were fired that we ask them to call us,” Darst said.

There are a lot of moving parts to this two-year pilot program. That includes the role of the Real Time Crime Center.

“They are able to get within about ten feet of where the shot was fired,” said Captain Angela Coonce, Commander of the Intelligence Division. “The detectives here will start looking for video that we have available in the area or any license plate readers. We have the people in the field that do a lot of heavy lifting for us.”

Bell said that detectives understand when neighbors are hesitant to speak but a large part of safeguarding neighborhoods is through public information.

“We do get a little bit of a stand-off but for the most part it’s been really well received and we are getting a lot of decent tips,” Bell said. “It’s everybody’s responsibility to help out and making this city the safest it can be.”

The other component of the program is a victim and witness advocate who works to retrieve information which could help solve crimes involving gunfire.