Law enforcement officials say the overall crime total in St. Louis County and in the city of St. Louis decreased in 2016.
Crime in the county is down 2 percent, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2jEFLKB ).
St. Louis police Chief Sam Dotson said reported overall crime in the city has dropped 4.1 percent, while property crimes decreased by about 6.6 percent.
"Everybody talks about crime as the worst they've ever seen it, but if you look at per capita, there are fewer crimes now than there were in 1970 and there's half the amount of crime in the city now than there was at its peak in 1933," Dotson said.
He still acknowledged that violent crimes such as homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault were up 4.4 percent compared to 2015. Police in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, saw nine homicides, according to an incomplete 2016 report from the medical examiner's office, the highest number of homicides of any municipality. Ferguson police Chief Delrish Moss said the department has 37 officers, 16 fewer than in 2014.
St. Louis County police Chief Jon Belmar has called for the hiring of more officers. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said Tuesday that he would look for ways to hire more, and noted a proposed sales tax increase could help to do so.
Dotson said that for now, officers are trying to work smarter and faster. He said the department is planning to launch a program in the spring called the Gun Crime Intelligence Center, modeled after a Denver police plan, to analyze shell casings at shooting scenes. A Justice Department initiative called The Violence Reduction Network will guide the program by speeding up the ballistic analysis process so that detectives can receive crime-related information within 24 to 48 hours.
"It's an arduous process and we will be able to triage these cases more quickly and push them out to detectives to see how shootings are connected and figure out strategies to stop them," Dotson said.