Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is sending highway patrol troopers and other state workers to St. Louis as part of an effort to fight the surge of violent crime that has included the killings of more than a dozen children in the region so far this year.
The Republican governor on Thursday announced an action plan that takes effect Oct. 1. Parson said the total cost of the state's commitment, including the 25 state employees who will work in the St. Louis region, is up to $4 million.
"This is about targeting violent criminals and getting them off the street," Parson said at a news conference in St. Louis.
Troopers will patrol interstate highways and assist with U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that focus on violent criminals. The state is also providing investigators to help with federal crime cases and social workers to assist crime victims. Parson said his plan also includes $2 million in state funds for services to help crime victims.
The plan does not include any change in gun laws, something St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and other Democrats have called for. Parson said it would be up to the Missouri Legislature to change gun laws but reiterated his staunch support for citizens' gun rights.
St. Louis has long had one of the nation's highest murder rates, and the 144 homicides so far in 2019 are on pace to top last year's total of 186. Particularly troubling this year is the fact that 11 of the victims were children , and two other child deaths are still being investigated as "suspicious." All of the child victims and the vast majority of adult victims were black in a city that's about evenly split between black and white residents.
Parson's plan addresses violence in St. Louis County, too. St. Louis County has recorded 37 homicides this year, one fewer than the same time a year ago. St. Louis County has reported two child homicides so far in 2019.
The Rev. Darryl Gray, one of 15 faith leaders who met Thursday with Parson, said the group is encouraged that Parson understands the gravity of the violence, not only in Missouri but in Kansas City, Springfield and other places.
"I think he feels the urgency," Gray said. "He understands that this is a crisis, not just for the black community but for Missouri."
Kansas City's homicide rate also is on the rise. Parson's spokeswoman, Kelli Jones, said that while the governor has met with Kansas City officials to discuss the crime problem there, he has no plans for a similar action plan in Kansas City.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade of Springfield said Parson's plan "does nothing for Kansas City or rural areas affected by increases in gun-related suicides and local violence." Quade, in a statement, said the proposal fails to address "Missouri's dangerously weak gun laws."
St. Louis-area Democrats want the city of St. Louis to be able to require permits for concealed weapons. State law requires no permit, and the law does not allow local jurisdictions to impose stricter gun laws than the state law.
Krewson said at the news conference that the city also is spending more money to fight crime, investing $500,000 in a program called "Cure Violence" that treats crime like a public health crisis and another $1.5 million for violence prevention efforts. St. Louis County is pledging more officers to man the region's MetroLink light rail system.