Report from the 26th District

Solutions to violent crime

BY State Sen. Dave State, Missouri’s 26th District
Posted 8/12/20

On Aug. 5, lawmakers from around the state returned to Jefferson City to resume the extra legislative session called by the governor.

In his call for an extra session, the governor outlined six …

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Report from the 26th District

Solutions to violent crime

Posted

On Aug. 5, lawmakers from around the state returned to Jefferson City to resume the extra legislative session called by the governor.

In his call for an extra session, the governor outlined six specific areas that he wanted lawmakers to focus on to reduce violent crime in our state, especially the alarming rise in homicides in St. Louis and Kansas City.

When it comes to violent crime, the statistics paint a grim picture in our state. According to the FBI, in 2018, Missouri ranked ninth in the country when it came to violent crime. The same data also indicated that both St. Louis and Kansas City ranked in the top 10 U.S. cities for violent crime. In addition, both Kansas City and St. Louis have reported drastic increases in homicides this year compared to 2019.

Senate Bill 1, legislation introduced at the start of the extra session, addresses the governor’s specific requests.

The legislation removes the residency requirement for St. Louis police officers. Currently, members of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) are required to live within the city as terms of their employment. According to SLMPD, the department is short 142 officers.

In my opinion, the shortage of officers in St. Louis has a direct effect on the violent crime experienced by the city. By eliminating this requirement, we are allowing the city to cast a wider net when it comes to recruiting police officers. From where I stand, more boots on the ground means safer streets, and I believe this is a simple solution to solving the city’s police shortage.

The legislation also includes two proposals to encourage witnesses to come forward and help put those who commit violent acts behind bars. Senate Bill 1 creates a Pretrial Witness Protection Services Fund. Through this fund, law enforcement agencies can receive funding for the purposes of providing security for witnesses, potential witnesses and their immediate families during criminal proceedings or investigations.

The legislation also eases “hearsay” rules and allows certain statements to be admissible in court when witnesses have been intimated from appearing in person.

In addition, SB 1 makes several changes to state law when it comes to juveniles participating in violent crime. The legislation makes it illegal for an individual to encourage a child to engage in any weapon offenses under state law. The legislation also increases penalties for knowingly transferring a firearm to a minor without the consent of the child’s guardian. Finally, the law would require courts to determine if children charged with armed criminal action or unlawful use of a weapon should be tried as adults. Not every child accused of these crimes would be tried as an adult, but the court would have to consider the possibility under this legislation.

As I prepare this report, my colleagues and I are discussing and debating the merits of this legislation. The bill could pass as written, or it could undergo several changes before receiving approval from the Senate — time will tell. At the end of the day, I firmly believe the six proposals included in this legislation are commonsense solutions that will make a tangible difference in our state.

As lawmakers, we owe it to our constituents to do everything we can to make Missouri a safe place to live, work and raise a family.

(Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, is president pro tem of the Missouri Senate. He may be reached at 573-751-3678 or by email at dave.schatz@senate.mo.gov if you have any questions or concerns).

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