St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly announced Wednesday that because of various agencies working jointly with East St. Louis and the targeting of locations where violent crime has occurred, the homicide rate in the city is down by 85 percent.
While Kelly believes it is possible to turn around "the seemingly impossible task of fighting crime in East St. Louis," he said he is concerned that these gains could be temporary without sustained action.
Some federal operations that have been helping to reduce the violent crime need to continue to be funded and more manpower is needed in some instances, he said.
"The federal Save Our Streets initiative needs to be renewed at the end of the month. The WAVE (Working Against Violent Elements) detail staffing will continue to dwindle unless more troopers are sent to this zone," Kelly said. Most importantly, Kelly said the public needs to remain engaged in the effort.
Kelly also said letters have been sent warning nuisance derelict property owners that they could face criminal prosecution for failing to clean up and maintain their properties in East St. Louis. One person who is described as a large property owner submitted a cleanup plan, Kelly said.
But criminal complaints of criminal housing mismanagement were filed Wednesday against Discount Inn Inc., Turner LCC and Clark LLC of Skokie. Kelly said the goal is to get the property owners to clean up and maintain their properties to make the areas where they are located safe.
The cases involving the property owners who were charged Wednesday "will be referred to the special grand jury," Kelly said.
Kelly also announced that the special grand jury Wednesday issued 25 violations of the Illinois Liquor Control Act against Club Posh, Club Rolex, and Club 103, all former nightclubs in East St. Louis.
Kelly said East St. Louis has unique challenges of violence and to get the criminal activity under control, unique methods are necessary to confront those challenges.
So Kelly requested June 1 for a special grand jury to convene to review the criminal matters in East St. Louis.
"On that date, dozens of charges were issued involving three Crown Food Mart liquor stores in East St. Louis. And also on the same date a joint operation that included Illinois State Police WAVE detail and agents with the Illinois Liquor Control Commission served warrants and inspections on three notorious nightclubs in East St. Louis," Kelly said.
Criminal charges that included maintaining a public nuisance were issued and injunctions were filed against four liquor establishments.
Kelly said to date, the homicide rate in East St. Louis is down 30 percent from 2010. And since June 1, when the prosecution started focusing on locations linked to violent crime, Kelly said "the homicide rate from June 1 to Sept. 18 is down 85 percent from 2010."
In August, the grand jury returned indictments on the liquor store and nightclub cases and indicted on additional counts, including drug paraphernalia and weapons charges, Kelly said.
Kelly said last year after a Department of Justice crime statistics briefing, prepared at the request of U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton, demonstrated a strong tie between violent crime and reoccurring geographic areas, he reviewed the options under Illinois law that were available to focus prosecution efforts on preventing crime in East St. Louis.
"This meant new prosecution strategies with new partners building cases related to locations with a history of violent crime," Kelly said. "For allegedly offending nightclubs, this meant working with the Illinois Department of Revenue and the Illinois Liquor Control Commission."
In dealing with offending liquor stores, Kelly said it was necessary to work closely with the Illinois Attorney General and the DEA on synthetic crimes.
And in East St. Louis it meant working closely with the East St. Louis public housing Ban and Bar Task Force, which includes personnel from the East St. Louis Housing Authority, East St. Louis police and personnel from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
And to clamp down on nuisance, derelict residential properties, Kelly said it meant "working closely with the Department of Regulatory Affairs in East St. Louis to strengthen code enforcement."
Since July, more than 70 criminal trespass charges have been issued, Kelly said.