Giving neighborhoods a voice in the legal process

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - It’s a way to fight crime without relying on police. Some say the neighborhood ownership model has been an effective way to give communities a voice in the legal process.

Thursday night, residents at the Buder Branch Library on Hampton Avenue in south city heard from a representative of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office. Rachel Smith helps residents find ways to share their concerns through a court advocacy program.

“A lot of people look to the police to solve crime, or prosecutors to fix the system,” said Smith. “The solution is in the community itself.”

In some cases, citizens sign letters for a judge to see and appear in court so a community’s concerns are heard.

“Different neighborhoods view and experience crimes differently,” said Smith. “Crime is not a one size fits all and it doesn’t impact people in the same way.”

Greg Meyer, president of the Tilles Park Neighborhood Association, says he’s witnessed residents’ input making a difference with judges.

“They sometimes raise the bail. They sometimes give a longer prison term to the person found guilty,” said Meyer. “We feel that has accomplished something that we feel is important.”

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