For the first time since becoming police chief 18 months ago, John Hayden took to social media to weigh in on a spike in violence across the city, and urged repeal of the city’s residency requirement so his department can recruit more officers.
“We’ve had several violent weekends in a row, and this past weekend was no different,” Hayden said in a video the department posted on Facebook on Wednesday.
“It certainly seems that in recent weeks, on many days, we have gone from one shooting scene to the next,” he continued.
Over the past four days, St. Louis police have responded to 19 shootings resulting in 18 victims, including at least four murders, Hayden said. And while homicide numbers dipped last year, they’re up by six, or about 7%, this year over last, to 89, according to the department. Last year’s figures were 28 higher, or about 18% up, over 2014.
The shootings come amid a two-year push by Mayor Lyda Krewson’s administration to crack down on criminals, curb violence and shake the city’s reputation as a dangerous town. Just two weeks ago, Hayden said that the department was redoubling efforts to hunt down “nests” of criminal activity — adding officers in affected neighborhoods, increasing the visibility of officers and squad cars citywide, and asking for help from social service organizations to calm potential retaliation.
In Wednesday’s nearly seven-minute video, Hayden identified other techniques: “crime-reduction zones” downtown, in the Dutchtown/Gravois Park area, and in north St. Louis, where police target open-air drug sales; increased camera surveillance; officer foot patrols; and his own efforts to drop in on neighborhoods to talk with residents.
“When folks are uncomfortable with coming to us, we go to them,” he said.
He also pleaded for more officers. The department, he said, has 147 fewer than the 1,328 it is authorized to employ. Since January 2018 when Hayden became chief, the department has graduated 123 new officers but has lost 125 through attrition, he said.
“We need a much larger applicant pool in short order, which I believe will only come by way of the repeal of the residency requirement,” he said.
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