Gov. Greitens announced his crime fighting surge in St. Louis on Monday. There is no doubt that the St. Louis region has a crime problem and a gun violence problem. (Governor SEAL won’t talk about gun violence. The availability of guns is somehow unrelated to criminal violence.) The support and aid of Missouri State Troopers is welcome. Their coordination with St. Louis police and other law enforcement agencies is a good thing. Why did Gov. Greitens find it necessary at this juncture to stab the city in the back?
Greitens announced his plan by calling St. Louis “the most dangerous city in the United States of America.” I’m sure the Regional Commerce and Growth Association is thrilled. Greitens just finished hurting the financial prospects of minimum wage workers in St. Louis by rolling back the city’s minimum wage. He claimed that his goal is to bring quality jobs to the state and that this minimum wage was disastrous for that effort. How much more disastrous is it for that effort to have the governor of the state proclaim one of the state’s two largest metropolitan areas “the most dangerous city in the United States of America?” This proclamation has been picked up by media far and wide.
St. Louis does have problems, but “the most dangerous city?” Chicago IL, Hartford, CT, Oakland, CA, Trenton, NJ might have something to say about that. As might Tukwila, WA, Emeryville, CA, Selma, AL, Branson, MO, Anniston, AL, Poplar Bluff, MO, Kennett, MO, Springfield, MO, Salt Lake City, UT, Spokane, WA, and Ardmore, OK.
St. Louis has long labored under the label of “the most dangerous city,” a victim of its curious political structure. The city of St. Louis has a small population relative to the surrounding municipalities that make up the Statistical Metropolitan Area that is St. Louis. Yet, the city is a draw for the surrounding areas for its economic and entertainment offerings. That makes it a draw for crime and criminals from the surrounding region. St. Louis was cited as the most dangerous city in the U.S. by the Wall Street Journal in 2016 based on FBI statistics of 1,817 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. (http://247wallst.com/special-report/2016/09/27/25-most-dangerous-cities-in-america/)
A similar study and ranking of the 30 most dangerous cities by SafeWise (https://www.safewise.com/blog/the-30-most-dangerous-cities-in-america-2016/) found Tukwila, WA to be the most dangerous city in the U.S. and identified four other cities in Missouri as more dangerous than St. Louis. Branson, Kennett, Springfield, and Poplar Bluff. St. Louis didn’t even make the list. Both SafeWise and the Wall Street Journal started from the same FBI statistics. The SafeWise study reported on crimes per 1,000. Calculating crimes per 1,000 from the Wall Street Journal report, St. Louis has 18.17 violent crimes per 1,000 people. The SafeWise study also took into account property crimes in its rankings.
18.17 violent crimes per 1,000 citizens is nothing to be proud of, but College Park, GA has 21.52 violent crimes per 1,000. Gallup, NM has 21.47. Anniston, AL has 23.75. Espanola, NM has 26.05.
My point is not that we do not have challenges to address, but that the governor in the same breath that he provides some assistance makes it infinitely harder to tackle the underlying problems of underemployment, low wages, and slow growth by broadly proclaiming St. Louis America’s Number One problem city. This drowns out St. Louis’ deserved reputation as a tech startup mecca and a major center for biotechnology. Thank you, Gov. SEAL, but we can do without that kind of help.
Submitted by Michael Pfeifer, WCD Member