September 19, 2013
St. Louis, Mo. – The fourth and final day of Attorney General Koster's Urban Crime Summit concluded this afternoon at Saint Louis University School of Law, closing four days of in-depth examination of strategies to combat violent crime with national and local experts.
The panel joining Koster for the final day of the Summit included St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson, St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch, Kansas City Mayor Sly James, and Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce and criminology professor Richard Rosenfeld of University of Missouri-St Louis discussed the creation of an armed offender docket, commonly referred to as a gun court, in the morning session. Joyce opened the morning session with a discussion of Judge John Garvey's Armed Offender Docket, noting that St. Louis is "awash in illegal guns." Judge Garvey plan calls for a specially designated St. Louis court and team of prosecutors to handle offenses involving a firearm, including armed robbery. Under his plan, firearm cases would be expedited and judges would have broad discretion to set bonds and pre-trial conditions.
Circuit judges in the City of St. Louis rejected Judge Garvey's proposal earlier this week. Joyce argued that a compromise plan adopted by the court is inadequate. "Our city is at an important time in our history," said Joyce. "We can choose to be a leader in addressing gun violence and saving lives, or do what we’ve always done and hope everything works out."
Rosenfeld explained that the Garvey plan would establish a monitor to produce statistical analysis of firearm cases handled by the court, but would not limit judicial discretion. "The idea here is clearly not to tell judges how to decide cases," said Rosenfeld. "What is important is to give judges all of the evidence they could possibly need to make the best decisions possible."
"The whole idea behind the gun docket is to bring a level of accountability we have heretofore not seen," said Slay, a strong advocate of the plan. "The people of St. Louis have a right to know what decisions are being made to impact their safety."
"Focused judicial intervention can save people's lives," said Joyce. One of the advantages of a gun court would be its unique ability to "reach the reachable" and quickly dispense justice to those who otherwise make gun violence a way of life.
Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker joined Joyce and Rosenfeld for a dialogue with panel members on efforts in both St. Louis and Kansas City to adopt an armed offender docket. James and Forté both encouraged members of the community to make their opinions on gun courts known to policy makers. James predicted that court innovations for firearm offenses are inevitable as reform-minded judges join the circuit courts.
Later in the morning, Rosenfeld presented research from his long-term study of the effect of stop, question, and frisk on crime rates. Earlier in the Summit, both the current Police Commissioner of the City of New York Raymond Kelly as well as former Commissioner William Bratton defended the practice as one that has prevented crimes in New York City, though differed on their interpretation of how it had been conducted in recent years. Rosenfeld’s analysis suggested that when police stops increased in New York City, crime rates declined. Rosenfeld also noted that the causal relationship is difficult to prove given that crime rates in St. Louis, which hadn't adopted a policy of stop, question, and frisk, also decreased during the same time-period.
Rosenfeld participated in the only peer-reviewed published research study to date on the policing practice of stop, question, and frisk. The study's finding suggest that New York City's decline in the rates of robbery and burglary were not related to increased stops. Rosenfeld and a colleague are currently conducting an expanded study of the practice to include a wider array of crimes and a larger data set. Preliminary results have shown a modest reduction in some crimes as a result of stops, but that "it takes 195 stops to avert a single burglary," said Rosenfeld. "No significant crime reductions are found for robbery or motor vehicle theft."
Renowned criminologist Frank Zimring of the University of California – Berkeley was the final presenter of the Summit. Zimring is the author of "The City That Became Safe: New York’s Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control." His presentation, entitled "What New York’s experience teaches us about crime and punishment in Missouri," addressed the lessons Zimring believes Missouri policy makers should take from New York City’s dramatic crime reduction.
Zimring suggested that New York City's evidence-based hot spot policing, among other factors, reduced crimes generally, including homicide and rape, but also dramatically reduced common street crimes, such as robbery, auto thefts, and burglary.
"Violent crime doesn’t have to be urban destiny. There are things you can do on the streets of cities that can make big changes," said Zimring. He stressed that policing practices can make a difference, if departments engaged in evidence-based strategies.
Koster thanked the presenters, panelists, and hosts before closing the summit. He stated that a final report and recommendations for best practices and legislative proposals would be issued in December. Transcripts of all of the Urban Crime Summit sessions will be available online in the coming weeks.