Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt convened a press conference earlier today to advocate for his legislative priorities heading into Missouri’s next legislative session, focusing heavily on fighting violent crime in Missouri’s major cities.
Attorney General Schmitt, Lawmakers Advocate for Crime-Fighting Focused Legislative Priorities
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt convened a press conference earlier today to advocate for his legislative priorities heading into Missouri’s next legislative session, focusing heavily on fighting violent crime in Missouri’s major cities.
Attorney General Schmitt was joined at the press conference by St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief John Hayden, President Pro Tempore of the Missouri Senate Dave Schatz, State Senator Andrew Koenig, and State Representative Derek Grier
Attorney General Schmitt’s legislative priorities for the upcoming session include two pieces of legislation: a carjacking statute and a bill removing residency requirements for St. Louis City police officers.
The first of Attorney General Schmitt-backed legislation announced in today’s press conference in a statewide carjacking statute. In the state of Missouri, there is no uniform charge for carjacking, and therefore no uniform sentencing. Instead, offenders are charged for various different crimes, often for the same offense. The charges most often used at 1st degree robbery, 2nd degree robbery, and stealing, all of which are a different class of felony and sentenced differently.
Under a statewide carjacking statute, one singular charge, motor vehicle hijacking, would be applied by prosecutors instead of a broader robbery or stealing charge for the same crime. The baseline classification under the statute is a class B felony, but the use of deadly weapons or dangerous instruments, as well as the victim being a child under 17 or a special victim, would elevate the offense to a class A felony.
The statute would also be used in conjunction with charges for Armed Criminal Action in the event a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument is used.
Additionally, tracking carjacking statistics will be easier with a more uniform charge instead of multiple.
This year alone, there were 305 carjacking incidents in the St. Louis Metro area, according to data obtained from the St. Louis Metro Police Department.
The bill will be sponsored by Representative Gregory in the House and Senator Onder in the Senate.
“With a carjacking statute, which will be introduced by State Rep. Gregory and State Senator Onder, there will be one charge for carjacking: motor vehicle hijacking, bringing clarity and simplicity to charging and sentencing carjackings,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “For those who feel emboldened to take another’s property, to commit a violent act against another one of our citizens, we must send a clear message: you will be prosecuted and will go to jail for 10 years or more. We will not stand by while you victimize, traumatize and injure, sometimes fatally, our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends … even if it is for a so-called joy ride.”
“Carjackings have reached epidemic levels in our state, and prosecutors have no uniform way to charge these violent criminals. I’m proud to sponsor legislation to create a carjacking statute to ensure that we keep Missourians safe,” said Representative Gregory.
“Crime has skyrocketed in the city of St. Louis, and one of the most vicious crimes is carjacking. It is imperative that we take action to protect law-abiding citizens and bring these criminals to justice,” said Senator Onder.
Removal of Residency Requirements in St. Louis City
Another priority of the group that gathered in St. Louis earlier today is removing the residency requirements for police officers in St. Louis City. As it stands right now, officers with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department are required to live within city limits to work on the city’s police force. Unfortunately, that stifles recruiting efforts and has led to a downturn in the number of officers working in the city.
According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the department is down 124 officers this year.
The proposed legislation, which will be sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Schatz, will remove the requirement, opening the door to applicants who live outside of St. Louis city limits.
“The single-most, greatest challenge the St. Louis Police Department has with respect to recruitment, as well as retention, is the residency requirement. We have the greatest need for officers in the most demanding criminal environment in the St. Louis metropolitan area, yet we have the greatest impediment to becoming an officer by inconveniencing and discouraging applicants with the residency requirement. Operating below staffing to this degree is obviously an officer safety issue; but when it comes to getting to a 9-1-1 call more quickly; when our citizens are frantically calling for our help, it also becomes a public safety issue. The residency requirement is not only a recruitment hurdle, but a retention ‘breach in the dam’ which is getting wider and wider,” said St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Hayden.
“As the law currently stands, with some exceptions, officers with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department are required to live within St. Louis city limits. This requirement has and is keeping good, qualified candidates from applying to serve our communities and to fight crime. Put simply: more officers means more brave, dedicated individuals patrolling St. Louis streets and keeping residents safe. Removing these residency requirements opens the SLMPD open to a larger and more diverse pool of applicants who don’t necessarily live within St. Louis city limits.,” said Attorney General Schmitt.
“I support removing residency restrictions on our police because I believe the men and women who protect and serve deserve to choose where they live. Our officers will still be close enough to respond to emergencies and the increased flexibility will help St. Louis recruit the best and brightest to the police force,” said Senate Pro Tem Schatz.
“Those who put their lives on the line to protect St. Louis deserve to choose where they live, and talented officers from outside the city should be able to help keep the streets of St. Louis safe. I support removing these restrictions on residency to ensure that St. Louis has the best possible officers on their police force,” said Representative Grier.
“Removing the residency requirement will not fix the shortage of police officers in the city immediately, however, removing one of the barriers to recruitment will certainly help. The City of St. Louis is a wonderful place to live, but it doesn’t work for all families, and officers should be able to choose where they live,” said St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.