We don’t put a lot of stock in reviews that rank cities from best to worst in a seemingly endless array of categories.
Still, it’s hard to ignore that St. Louis is usually conspicuous in these national studies when it comes to violent crime. Others are taking notice of what we already know – St. Louis is a dangerous place.
Forbes recently ranked St. Louis second in its 10 most dangerous cities list behind Detroit and ahead of Oakland.
Similarly, St. Louis placed 60th out of 62 of the largest U.S. cities in a WalletHub “best big cities to live in” study just released.
St. Louis earned the near bottom ranking in part because it finished dead last in the safety and education/health categories. The survey pointed out St. Louis had the worst crime rate of any of the 62 big cities it examined.
What’s more disturbing is, despite all the unwanted attention, it feels like the crime problem is getting worse.
Perhaps that’s because the crimes are more brazen. Children are routinely victims of violent crime, collateral damage in a crime wave that is out of hand. Running gun battles on interstates in and around St. Louis occur regularly. Carjackings are commonplace.
If you don’t trust the rankings, you can ask our governor. Two weeks ago, Gov. Eric Greitens called St. Louis “the most dangerous city in the United States of America” when he unveiled a plan to quell violent crime in the city.
It was an unusual declaration for a politician. Usually governors downplay negative things about their state. Their job is to calm the waters and spin the positive. Not this governor. He took a shot at St. Louis, the city where he grew up and still has a home.
Maybe it had something to do with the fact his wife was robbed at gunpoint in the city a few short months ago.
Regardless, Greitens was just stating the obvious. As of April 2017, St. Louis has the highest murder rate per capita in America. Homicides have been increasing over the past three years, with 188 in both 2015 and 2016. So far, 2017 is shaping up to surpass that number, with 110 killings through July 18, according to police statistics.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson conceded the city “is at a crisis point” when it comes to violent crime. That is the perception of many in this area.
So why should citizens of Franklin County care about St. Louis’ crime problem, especially those who don’t travel there often?
Here’s one important reason. As St. Louis goes, so does the surrounding region and to some degree, the entire state. St. Louis is the economic engine for the state, accounting for over 40 percent of all economic activity in Missouri. When St. Louis succeeds, so does the state.
Violent crime is an impediment to growth. It saps the vitality of the impacted communities and the surrounding region, and stifles economic development. It diverts public services and consumes taxpayer resources.
High crime rates often lead to population reduction as individuals move away to avoid victimization. Many contend that is a big part of the reason St. Louis’ population is shrinking.
Make no mistake about it, the violent crime epidemic has significant ramifications for Franklin County. We are too close to the problem for it not to have consequences here.
There are no easy solutions to reducing the current crime wave. More police officers would help but it isn’t going to solve a systemic problem that is endemic to poverty, the disintegration of the family and the parallel worlds of drug dealing, drug taking and drug seeking.
Reduce those factors and violent crime will decrease. No easy task for sure.