ST. LOUIS, Mo. – “St. Louis, America’s ‘Murder Capital’ but the bigger killer here is fentanyl addiction.” Those are the chilling opening lines of a new BBC documentary from their Unreported World series posted to YouTube. The journalists meet addicts and those attempting to help them recover.
To put that in perspective, there were 352 overdose deaths and 195 murders in 2021. Both of those numbers are down from 2020.
Two former addicts take BBC producers on a tour of the streets of St. Louis. They say that the “state streets” are especially dangerous. One of them is a former sex worker and she introduces producers to people who are addicted and not quite ready to stop. A knife is drawn while the crew is at South St. Louis Square Park at South Broadway and Shirmer and they are forced to leave.
The crew then moves to the Jubilee Community Church on North Grand along what the film crew calls the “Murder Mile.” An addiction recovery center recently opened there. A 27-year-old man tells them how the drug has ruined his life.
“I’ve stolen Christmas presents from my daughter. I’ve stolen from stores. I’ve stolen from my 94-year-old grandmother. Those are the things that ruined my life, family-wise,” the man tells the crew in an observation room.
“The derelict buildings across north St. Louis tell the story of a fast-shrinking de-industrialized city. These neighborhoods are overwhelmingly Black. If you’re a Black male you’re twice as likely to die of an overdose than if you’re white,” said reporter Krishnan Guru-Murthy.
“Most of the people who come in are broken. They are broken from something. Most of them have been let down and abused. They just can’t get out even if they want to,” said Pastor Dr. Bryan Moore. “Our motto here is, ‘no one is coming here to save you. You are responsible for yourself.'”
“In many ways what we have seen here is inspiring. Individuals taking responsibility for their own recovery and helping others to lift themselves up. But, the more time you spend here the more you realize this hasn’t happened by accident. This is the product of decades of deprivation, of segregation, and of the di-industrialization of these parts of Midwestern America. These massive numbers of overdoses are systemic, even with poverty. It will take a lot more than an individual struggle to overcome it,” concludes Krishnan Guru-Murthy