St. Louis police chief asks Missouri State Highway Patrol to help in downtown; no decision yet



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ST. LOUIS — With the city facing an increase in violent crime, including homicides, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said Wednesday that he's asked the Missouri State Highway Patrol to assist policing downtown.

Dotson said a marked uptick in violent crime over the past several months led him to come up with new ideas to fight back. Mounted city patrols will be added and 160 new officers are planned, though getting them on the street could take two years. "Hot-spot" policing — increased officer presence in a high-crime area — has been added downtown.

As part of the effort, Dotson said he has met with the Highway Patrol about adding 10 to 12 officers who would walk alongside city officers downtown.

"It certainly puts the criminals on notice," Dotson said. "It helps the community feel safer."

Highway Patrol Capt. Tim Hull confirmed that the agency has been asked to provide officers.

"No decision at this point has been made on whether we'd be able to do that," Hull said. Dotson said he expects a decision within a week.

Maggie Crane, a spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay, said the idea was among many under consideration after months of rising crime, but says it's unlikely.

"The Mayor has asked the Chief to look at ways to reduce crime in the City," Crane said in an email. "This will not be one of them."

Violent crime declined last year in many U.S. cities but rose sharply in St. Louis. The city recorded 159 homicides, the highest total since 2008. At least 15 killings have occurred already this year.

While much of the violence is in a few crime-ridden neighborhoods in north St. Louis, some is spilling into the downtown area. Earlier this month, 19-year-old college student Bobby Christman was killed during an apparent robbery outside a downtown nightclub. Two people are in custody in Illinois on other charges, but have not been charged in the killing.

Enlisting help from the Highway Patrol would be an unusual, but not unprecedented, move. Hull said the agency often helps during emergencies, such as the aftermath of a tornado.

In the mid-1990s, Hull said, the patrol participated in a community policing program to help stem crime in Kansas City. Dotson said a similar partnership with the patrol took place in St. Louis at that time.

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