Crime can be divided into property crimes – such as burglary, theft, auto theft and arson – and crimes against persons such as homicide and assault. (For more information on crimes against persons, see the topic Violence & Prevention). Crime rates have improved in the St. Louis region and in metropolitan areas nationwide. The largest decline in St. Louis’ crime rates occurred between 1990 and 1997; modest declines have occurred since then. In 1991, the St. Louis region had 6,305 crimes per 100,000 people and ranked 11th among its peer regions. In 2004, with 4,129 crimes per 100,000, St. Louis’ rank dropped significantly to 23rd.2
The St. Louis region is frequently named as a poor performer on rankings and measures of crime, but this is occasionally due to the methodology used by the reporting entity. In the 2009-2010 City Crime Rankings from the CQ Press, St. Louis, MO ranks 2nd in a comparison of nearly 400 cities. This ranking, however, is based only on the County of St. Louis city, which only includes the 18 ZIP codes nearest the downtown area. In the CQ Press’s ranking of Metropolitan areas, St. Louis MO-IL ranks 103rd.
Juvenile involvement in crime is both a derivative of and a contribution to the high poverty, low opportunity communities in which the youth reside. Poverty and socio-economic risk factors lead to problem behaviors and negative outcomes such as dropping out of school, substance abuse, gang involvement, and crime. In 2008, there were 4,290 total juvenile division referrals to the St. Louis City Family Court. The court reports a decreasing trend in the number of felony referrals since 2006, as well as a decrease in the average detention population.
Prevention efforts often focus on the education of young children. The St. Louis Metropolitan police department operates several programs to increase child knowledge, and to increase the chance that youth will develop a sense of mutual trust and partnership with law enforcement officers. Two local programs include:
G.R.E.A.T. Gang Resistance Education and Training Program
In 2008, the US Department of Justice gave $90,000 to a partnership between ARCHS and the SLMPD to begin a G.R.E.A.T. Program, similar to other programs operating in several major US cities. Operated in the schools and taught by law enforcement officers, the program seeks to prevent delinquency, youth violence and gang membership.
PAL – The Police Athletic League
The Police Athletic League (PAL) is a volunteer based program that operates in cooperation with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. PAL provides children in St. Louis with low-cost athletic, educational, and cultural programs. Each athletic team is sponsored by a volunteer police officer, and provides children with positive options for healthy free-time activities.
Crime Incident Mapping
Online crime mapping tools are being developed locally and nationally to help disseminate crime statistics to the public in meaningful and relevant ways.
- Crime Reports.com. Crime Reports is an online crime mapping tool that allows users to obtain data on crime incidences. Several St. Louis metro area municipalities are currently participating in the Crime Reports data system, including St. Louis City, Creve Coeur, Kirkwood, and Maryland Heights in Missouri, and Granite City and Fairview Heights in Illinois.
- St. Louis County Police Department, Interactive Crime Incident Mapping.