Monday, March 4, 2013

Mayor Slay and the Denial of Crime in St. Louis

by Sylvester Brown, Jr.
Originally published in The Norhsider / March 2013

"The first thing we have to do, is admit that
we have a problem.”
- Lewis Reed, Candidate for Mayor/ Jan.29, 2013

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay prepares his closing comments as challenger Lewis Reed walks past him after addressing the audience at the first debate of the campaign on Jan. 29, 2013, at the Central Library Auditorium in St. Louis. The Mayoral Candidate Forum was presented in partnership with the League of Women Voters, the St. Louis Public Library, and Community Builders Network. Photo by Laurie Skrivan
Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, click here for story























On Tuesday Jan. 29th, during the first mayoral campaign debate at the Central Library; Mayor Francis G. Slay boasted that his administration and police were working smarter, better and harder to combat crime in the city.

His major opponent, Aldermanic board President, Lewis Reed fired back:

“I don’t know about you, but I’m not feeling safer in the city of St. Louis. The first thing we have to do,” Reed added, “is admit that we have a problem.”

It seems the mayor has always had problems not only effectively addressing crime during his 3-term tenure but admitting it’s a serious problem. In 2005, four years after he was elected, Slay and then Police Chief Joseph Mokwa enthusiastically cited falling crime numbers to convince outsiders that the city was a safe place to live. The problem with their stated numbers was the fact that police weren’t counting or filing full reports on hundreds of criminal incidents. The practice, uncovered by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, violated FBI guidelines that dictate police must file full reports of all crimes. It also meant that officers had the power to decide on the spot what was a crime and what wasn’t. This meant, for instance, that hundreds of rape victims never saw justice because police officers determined no crime had been committed and simply wrote “informal memos” which are not counted as crimes.

In 2005, Slay and then Police Chief Joseph Mokwa enthusiastically cited falling crime numbers to convince outsiders that the city was a safe place to live. The problem? Police weren’t counting or filing full reports on hundreds of criminal incidents, including rape.

On his campaign website, Slay claims that crime has fallen by 12.4 percent. Recently, during an hour-long debate carried by KWMU radio, Slay once again made a case for crime reduction in the city:

“Crime has actually dropped by twice the national average in the past six years,” Slay said, touting his crime-fighting success.

Turns out, the mayor is once again playing fast and loose with terms and statistics. In 2011, the national violent crime rate stood at 403 offenses per 100,000 residents. In St. Louis, despite declining numbers, the city was at 1,747 offenses per 100,000 residents -- four times higher than the national average, according to the River Front Times.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently reported real crime figures in St. Louis. Based on FBI statistics, the crime rate is up about 23 percent citywide with seven out of eight crime categories up in January over 2012 — four by double digits. Homicides have seen a 36.4 percent increase in one year, larceny is up 46.3 percent and rape-which Police Chief Sam Dotson expects to double before year’s end- is up 62.5 percent.

In other categories; there has been a 5.7 percent increase in robbery, aggravated assaults are up by 9.0 percent, Burglary 1.7 percent, vehicle theft -1.9 percent and arson is up by 44.4 percent over this time last year.

Based on FBI statistics, the crime rate is up about 23 percent citywide with seven out of eight crime categories up in January over 2012 — four by double digits. Homicides have seen a 36.4 percent increase in one year, larceny is up 46.3 percent and rape-which Police Chief Sam Dotson said he expects to double before year’s end- is up 62.5 percent.

Slay has avoided detailed statistics and has simply stated that the city’s crime rate has consistently dropped over the past 12 years. This is true, but as FBI crime figures attest, violent crime has dropped all over the country during that same time frame. Despite the mayor’s protest, St. Louis has been consistently ranked as “the most” or “one the most” violent cities in America throughout Slay’s three terms in office.

Still, facing a tough reelection and with more than $3 million in campaign donations, Slay has attempted to blunt the negative crime numbers with glitzy advertising and what many call “publicity events” aimed at manufacturing the appearance that crime is being addressed in St. Louis. In one TV spot, a retired policeman drives around the city and, in a voice over, thanks Slay for his crime-fighting efforts. In late February, Slay publicly announced that police and city workers would flood the low-income, mostly black north side College Hill neighborhood to crack down on crime, clean empty lots and board up abandoned buildings.

“13 days before Election Day, Mayor Slay is finally discovered the College Hill neighborhood, said 21st Ward Alderman Antonio French, who represents the area. “Considering the city owns half the land and vacant buildings in College Hill-making Slay the largest slum Lord in that neighborhood-he should accept some responsibility for the conditions there.”

Residents of the neighborhood seemed to echo French’s sentiments in a KPLR news report following Slay’s crime campaign titled; “Residents Think College Hill Cleanup Part of Political Stunt.”

With an almost 35 percent jump in murders, violent crime in St. Louis remains a real problem for residents and the city’s reputation across the globe. This is an inconvenient truth for an incumbent running for re-election. But it’s an even more dangerous reality for family’s trapped in the most dangerous neighborhoods in America’s “most dangerous city.”

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

So just how on earth can the Clay family support and endorse Mayor Slay?

Sylvester Brown, Jr. said...

In the words of Bill Clay Sr.: "No permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests." I probably butchered the quote but the gist of it is that the Clay's will do what's necessary to defend, protect and advance their interests. Slay supported Clay, Jr. and I suppose its quid-pro-quoi.

Anonymous said...

Is Slay to blame for the overwhelming majority of African-American children born out of wedlock? Children born to single mothers, especially teenage girls, face poverty, limited education, difficulty finding employment.

Let's start with the root of the problem! If you are 18 years old with three children with three different mothers or fathers, crime is the way to pay for formula and diapers. There is no time for high school. Have you seen the playground for high school parents at the public schools?

Crime is up because marriage within the poverty-stricken communities is down!

Sylvester Brown, Jr. said...

Anonymous, your comment is extremely short-sighted and racist. Facts: The majority of children of all races in America are born "out of wedlock." The so-called "root" of the problem is not single mothers having children nor is there any proof that they turn to crime to pay for "formula and diapers." Careful where you point prejudiced fingers. More and more whites are being imprisoned these days because more and more whites have become impoverished due to the recession and a growing additiction to the illegal meth industry. You may soon find that the common denomonator between crime and race has been and still is poverty.