St. Louis police, federal agents, will team together to fight violence
Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington said in an interview Friday that such partnerships can produce great results.
"Everyone brings different assets to the table. When you have them working together, you get the best of both worlds," Wexler said. "It could have a pretty profound effect on crime in the city of St. Louis."
Setting up the unit was among Isom’s first priorities when he took over as police chief in October, he said.
Overall, violent crime in the city dropped 3.5 percent last year, he said, but homicides increased by 21 percent. St. Louis ended the year with 167 murders, the highest number since 204 people were slain in 1995.
The unit will use computerized data and undercover officers to saturate areas known for drug and gang problems to focus on people with a history of violence.
Special attention will be put on those with prior arrests for murder, weapons violations and multiple felonies, Isom said.
"This is not about those citizens who have previously been convicted of a crime but have now turned their lives around," Isom emphasized. "It’s about the repeat offenders who, arrest after arrest … continue to terrorize our neighborhoods with their criminal activities."
He said federal help will allow the city to transfer some of its officers back to regular street patrol.
Federal agents said they will bring their special expertise in gangs, drugs and weapons to the mix.
"We were all addressing violent crime in our ways," FBI Special Agent in Charge John Gillies said Friday. "This refocuses our effects on the most violent."
He joined U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce and local heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in a gathering to pledge their support.
The new unit will include 14 police officers, eight agents from the DEA, six from the ATF and three from the FBI. They will work together from an undisclosed location under leadership of city police Capt. Ed Kuntz, who formerly led the Crime Suppression Unit.
Each of the agencies will assign officers who previously worked on violent crime investigations. But now their focus will narrow.
"We are attacking the worst first — those who are the most likely to hurt someone in our community," Hanaway said.
Joyce said attorneys from her Career Criminal Unit will work with the new team. Hanaway plans to set up a similar team in her office.
"We’re all working together. We’re all talking to each other," Joyce said. "There are few places that these violent offenders can hide now."