This week marks the launch of a partnership between Governor Parson’s office and Mayor Lyda Krewson’s administration. Recently a meeting was conducted at City Hall that included Parson, Krewson, St. Louis County officials, and state agencies, yet excluded the region’s two African-American head prosecutors.
This summer in St. Louis has been extremely traumatizing and filled with violent crime that has reached national headlines for its impact on our many youth lost to gun violence. Some components of the partnership will be beneficial. But the Missouri Highway Patrol pulling over people for traffic violations will not stop youth from becoming victims of gun violence.
The 2018 Vehicle Stop report published by Attorney General Eric Schmitt shows that African Americans are significantly more likely to be pulled over than whites. In Missouri you are 91 percent more likely to be pulled over for Driving While Black. If you are an African American, you don’t need a report to tell you about your lived experience. Whether you were pulled over for a broken taillight, improper lane usage, or exceeding the posted speed limit by 5 miles per hour, you have been stopped for some small infraction. Your day is delayed, and now you can look forward to taking time away from work to attend a court date.
The partnership is a lot larger than turning state troopers into the ticket patrol. The plan also includes an ATF Strike force, U.S. marshals to curb drug crimes, two additional investigators to aid the United States attorney’s office, and funding for the victim crime fund. The plan is elaborate, but it is not complete.
When you do not have the right offices at the table, that will have counterproductive outcomes. Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner and County Prosecutor Wesley Bell should have been invited to that meeting. These are two offices that deal with violent crime day in and day out.
Another unintended outcome will be clogging our criminal justice system with minor traffic violations. The Krewson administration has rebutted that state troopers will free our St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers to focus on violent crime. When was the last time you saw St. Louis traffic police officers actively patrolling interstates?
Perhaps the plan shouldn’t be measured by how many traffic tickets are given out but rather by how many accidents are cleared. Driving down I-70 I witnessed a gentleman on the side of the road changing a flat tire by himself then noticed four to five troopers stopping drivers for speeding or other infractions. Using their time to assist the city with safety and accident clean-up could free our officers to focus on patrolling the city.
If Parson wants to help our region address the issue, I recommend he earmark money in the budget to grant summer youth programs funding proportionate to the crime experienced in the different regions across Missouri. Law enforcement agencies should partner in ways that provide city officers the opportunity to engage within their districts. We must free up officers from administration so they can repair community/police relations. Lastly, our African-American prosecutors should not be left out of the discussion and offered the same assistance granted to the United States attorney’s office.
Further, I am calling on Parson and Krewson to publish the results of the similar 90-day pilot partnership conducted in 2017 when Eric Greitens was governor.
There is no one solution to ease the pain we have been feeling from the bloody summer. Placing a higher burden on one particular community will not ease that pain. When Missourians see red and blue lights it should give them a feeling of security that criminals will be brought justice, not because their vehicle has a chipped taillight.
Marty Joe Murray Jr. is the 7th Ward Democratic committeeman in St. Louis.