Monday, October 03, 2011

STL Rising: Crime Patrol

With the holiday season fast approaching, and a bad economy weighing down on us, the threat of crime is a serious concern. A few weeks ago, STL Rising attended a neighborhood crime watch event.

In attendance were a number of representatives from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, aldermen, NSOs, neighborhood association representatives, and Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce.

A number of suggestions were made to reduce crime and convict criminal defendents. They are summarized here for your information.

1) An engaged citizenry is the number one deterrent to crime. You can have lots of police officers and prosecutors, but without engaged citizens, it's hard to control crime.

2) Citizen Patrols work. There is training available. Even noting the little things for attention helps cut down on crime, including such things as reporting the locations of street lights that aren't working to the proper authorities to get them repaired asap.

3) Victim Support Networks help. They help neighors and crime victims deal with the system. They set up a trained group of volunteers to reach out to victims, letting them know they are not alone.

4) Neighborhood impact testimony makes a difference. In the courtroom, whether it's pushing for a higher bond amount, or a longer sentence, judges listen to the testimony of neighbors and victims. The defendent will show up in a suit and with a new haircut, sometimes with family members present. They seek sympathy from judges.

If no one is present from the neighborhood or victim's side, the sympathy factor is more likely to come into play. To prevent this, engaged citizens offering neighborhood impact testimony can strengthen the judges resolve to listen to the concerns of victims and neighborhood residents.

Questions from the audience were discussed.

First, was a call for more officers on the street. With budgets tight, this is a dificult time to be hiring more officers.

Second, someone asked for an explanation of the difference between "clearance rates" and "conviction rates". Clearance rate means the percentage of crimes solved, but not necessarily with a conviction. Conviction rate means percentage of cases resulting in convictions. Clearnace rates are higher than conviction rates.

Third, a question about the use of surveillance cameras in the 21st ward. Law enforcement people like surveillance cameras, but they are a cost. Circuit Attorney Joyce reiterated the value of surveillance cameras when prosecuting crimes.

Fourth, a question came up about how to describe a suspicious person. Such things as age, height, weight, clothing, facial hair, race were all mentioned as key information.

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