During a press conference last week, Madison County officials repeatedly blamed St. Louis crime for leading to the shooting death of man near Glen Carbon.
And during that press conference, Madison County Sheriff John Lakin made mention of a wall — referencing a national immigration concept hotly debated during the 2016 presidential campaign.
"Madison County is now starting to feel the effects of being in close proximity to one of the most dangerous cities in the United States," Madison County Sheriff John Lakin said last week. "And what we have to understand here — this may sound familiar to some folks — is we can't build a wall around Madison County and expect St. Louis to pay for it."
But is St. Louis crime really spilling over into the metro-east?
Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons believes so, saying he's seen an increase in the amount of crime committed by St. Louis residents in Madison County.
As of Feb. 21, eight of the past 30 felony charges in Madison County were filed against people from St. Louis city or county, Gibbons said. He was not able to look back further than that because of time restraints.
But from his recollection, Gibbons said the county has recently seen a large increase in violent crimes and property crimes, especially carjackings and burglaries.
"By all accounts and appearances, this is a much more recent phenomenon, increasing over the last several years," Gibbons said.
St. Louis has repeatedly been named as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. The city saw record numbers of homicides in 2017, reaching more than 200 by the end of the year.
St. Louis resident Tyrone Grady was shot and killed in rural Glen Carbon on Feb. 11 and three St. Louis men were charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Officials said crime was the only thing tying Grady and the other three men to Glen Carbon.
Some recent notable metro-east crimes in which St. Louis-area residents were charged in include:
- John Beil, charged with four home burglaries and two vehicle burglaries in North Alton in August 2017
Bryant Adair, charged with the shooting death of Darren Henderson, of Madison, in July 2017
Ryan Larose, charged with aggravated kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated vehicular hijacking, aggravated battery and possession of meth in February 2018 after a high speed chase in a car stolen from Pontoon Beach
Toreyan Moore, of Florissant, charged with aggravated vehicular carjacking in August 2017
Lakin doesn't deny that plenty of crime comes from Madison County residents. And he doesn't blame St. Louis politicians or law enforcement officers. They're doing the best they can, he said, but the city is "taxed with a lot of violent crime."
"We all know (the wall) isn't realistic," Lakin said. "My point for making that comment is that we're trying to educate the public on our side of the river that there are bad things happening over here."
"There are bad people, and I'm trying to educate our residents to not become a victim. Violent crime does happen in Madison County... We know we've got our share of bad people over here."
But the crime doesn't only come to Madison County from St. Louis — it goes there as well. In late January, an Alton man led police on a high speed chase in St. Louis and was charged with the armed robbery of a gas station. A Wood River man who was with him was charged with interfering with a felony arrest.
In St. Clair County, however, St. Louis crime doesn't seem to be a problem, according to Sheriff Rick Watson.
"We don't have any more of an issue than we ever did," Watson said. "We have people who go over there and commit crimes, (too). We don't have more crime over here because of St. Louis."
Madison County has a different route to get to St. Louis, Watson said, and connects to the more northern parts of the city, where the crime rate is higher. St. Clair County mainly connects to the downtown area.
Much of St. Clair County's crime comes from East St. Louis, where criminals have easy access to cross state lines into Missouri. Because of that, the East St. Louis Police Department periodically meets with St. Louis police to compare notes and attempt to identify suspects.
In 2017, 20 percent of defendants charged with murder in St. Clair County had a St. Louis address, according to St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly. The county feels the "ebb and flow of crime" along with St. Louis, he said.
Neither county was able to produce specific numbers for past years detailing crime from St. Louis residents, but both Gibbons and Kelly said they were looking into it.