St. Charles County Executive calls on St. Louis City, region to get control of crime problem

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann hopes a proposal penned to the state legislature will help the St. Louis region combat its ongoing crime problem.
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 9:50 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) -St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann hopes a proposal penned to the state legislature will help the St. Louis region combat its ongoing crime problem.

In the plan, Ehlmann proposes the state take back control of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department if the city is unable to curb crime. He also says a single prosecutor overseeing cases in both St. Louis County and St. Louis City would allow a larger number of voters to decide who they want to prosecute crime in the highest impact areas.

“The main reason for this plan is to make sure the families and neighbors of those being killed in the street are helped,” he said. “Beyond that, we have to look at the region as a whole.”

Ehlmann said St. Charles County is active with its Auto Theft Task Force after Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar declared it the number one threat to public safety in the county last year. While the task force has helped reduce the number of cars being stolen, Ehlmann said crime is becoming increasingly frequent.

“Those criminals that are not being incarcerated for those crimes will continue to commit crimes in the city and come out to other areas of the region,” he said. “On any given day, half of the people in our jail are not from St. Charles County, they’re from other places.”

St. Charles County is the fastest growing county in the state, according to the 2020 census. The county grew about 13 percent between 2010 and 2020, while the region saw a growth rate of just over one percent. Ehlmann said he’s concerned both with level off without a stronger hold on crime.

“The reputation has hurt us because people who don’t live here don’t understand it’s not everywhere,” he said. “What’s happening I think is people are crossing St. Louis off their list which means they’ll never find out about St. Charles.”

The City of St. Louis said as of Monday, there have been 154 homicides. This time last year, there were 148 homicides. Two years ago, in 2020, the city had recorded 206 homicides.

“We recognize we still have a lot of work to do, but that’s a significant reduction in violent crime in a year and a half period,” said Dr. Dan Isom, Public Safety Director for the city of St. Louis.

Further, Isom said many of the root causes of crime aren’t unique to the city and people from surrounding areas are contributing to the crime problems.

“Substance abuse has no borders, we know there are many people coming from St. Charles County, St. Louis County, even the Metro East that are coming into St. Louis and fueling the drug market, so that’s a regional issue,” he said.

Last month, Greater St. Louis Inc, shared findings from a new study, revealing in the last ten years the St. Louis region is the 47th slowest growing metro of the top 50 in the country. The group said downtown brings in more than $100 million in tax revenue but receives only $26 million in general fund expenditures.

“At some point, St. Louis City and St. Louis County have to take care of themselves and you have to fight violent crime and there are lots of issues out there,” said Governor Mike Parson.

Parson said it is not the state’s role to take over control of the city’s police department.

“We’re here to partner,” he said. “We’re not here to take over and we’re not going to take over the city or the county but we will partner to try to help reduce that crime and make sure people are safe.”

Earlier this year, Parson introduced the Safer Missouri, Stronger Missouri initiative. Within it, a statewide survey found more than 70 percent of state business leaders felt crime was impacting the state’s economic competitiveness. 79 percent of those surveyed said the state should be engaged in addressing the problem.

“It’s now reaching people who live in the suburbs who always felt safe and always regretted what was going on in the city but didn’t feel like it was their problem, well, it’s becoming their problem,” Ehlmann said.

Mayor Tishaura Jones’ office said the city has made “historic” investments in community violence intervention programs, youth programming and the creation of the Office of Violence Prevention. It has also created a new behavioral health unit focused on addressing opioid abuse.