ST. LOUIS, Mo. – It may be the most alarming crime trend of 2021: the number of children being hit by gunfire in the St. Louis area. There have been nearly three dozen.
This week, just hours after authorities announced charges against a second suspect for the January murder of Dmyah Fleming, 7, in the Central West End, came news of another child shot.
A boy, 3, was hit in the 4200 block of Evans in North St. Louis, with bullets nearly missing 4 more children in the car as a mother unloaded groceries.
The wounded boy survived.
“It must have been about 10-12 shots,” said neighbor, Toni Beard. “My husband and I actually have a porch prayer every Sunday night for this specific reason for violence against our children and being struck down in the street.”
There have been so many to pray for this year.
A week ago, a girl, 18 months old, was shot in the leg on Eichelberger in South St. Louis. A few weeks earlier, a girl, 13, was shot in the leg on Miami in South St. Louis. The victims aren’t just those hit by the bullets.
“You go into an average school. You say, ‘how many of you have anybody shot in your neighborhood, cousins, aunts, uncles?’” queried St. Louis Aldermanic President, Lewis Reed. “By the time you finish going down this list, there’s a whole pack of students with their hands up. You don’t think that’s impacting them on a daily basis? It’s impacting every single thing that they do and they’re traumatized…we know what doesn’t work: what we’ve been doing.”
He pins hope on the city’s new $7 million Cure Violence program through which mentors who’ve survived the cycle of violence identify potentially violent situations and “interrupt” them; for instance, a 14-year old plotting a revenge shooting after two relatives were murdered. He’s redirected his energy into education and job training through daily meetings with his mentor.
The first, early returns from the Cure violence program have just been released by the City of St. Louis Health Director. The numbers are far from conclusive but at least they indicate a step in the right direction: lower rates of gun violence in the three city neighborhoods where the program is operating through the first 20 weeks of 2021.
“(In) some of the communities we’ve seen upwards of 200 interruptions that have happen during the course of just these first few months and that truly, truly, helps us,” Reed said. “If we change it by one person, one more person, it is significant. What if what was your child, aunt, uncle?
For too many St. Louis area children and families it’s no longer t a case of ‘what if?’