Home » Crime » Recent Articles:

Opinion: Closed Streets Do Not Reduce Crime

February 27, 2019 Crime, Featured, Transportation, Walkability Comments Off on Opinion: Closed Streets Do Not Reduce Crime

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was about closed streets and crime, prompted by a news story about new research at Saint Louis University:

St. Louis’ often-interrupted street grid is the outgrowth of the 1970s-era “defensible space” strategy to address rising crime championed by Oscar Newman, a prominent urban planner who was a Washington University architecture professor in the mid-1960s, according to the paper. That idea stems from the notion that an area is safer when residents feel a sense of ownership and control, which Newman described as allowing neighbors to focus their attention on “removing criminal activity from their communities.”

St. Louis became the birthplace of such ideas, according to the paper. And they haven’t had the desired effect. (Post-Dispatch)

Below is one such example where “Schoemehl pots”, just sections of sewer pipe, were used to limit vehicular traffic.

Schoemehl pots used in their traditional role of messing up the street grid, 2012 photo.

Their paper’s conclusion:

Oscar Newman’s defensible space theory is a product of St. Louis’s mid-century history. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that St. Louis also offers a large-scale implementation of defensible space in the street barriers that constrict swaths of the city’s geography. The barriers scattered across the city’s landscape are a testament not only to former Mayor Vincent Schoemehl, the elected official most closely associated with the barriers, but to Newman himself. We have developed the most comprehensive known list of closures in the city, and find that the density of closures is not associated with less crime in neighborhoods. Our finding is an important one for St. Louis, given that addressing crime is the argument being made explicitly in the legislation that authorizes more recent installations of barriers. For other municipalities that may be considering defensible space or other techniques to “design out” crime, our findings suggest that street closures are at best ineffective and at worst associated with higher rates of violent crime in neighborhoods. They may also have secondary effects on first responders’ ability to reach the neighborhoods they serve. (Research paper)

I completely agree with the conclusions of the researchers, but I also think they should be looking at earlier changes to the urban street grid. As I’ve said before, when Harold Bartholomew (1889-1989) first arrived in St. Louis in the nineteen teens he quickly began assaulting our fine network of public streets. Writing decades later in the 1947 plan:

Since 1916 St. Louis has expended over $40,000,000 in opening, widening, connecting, and extending the system of major streets. Much has been accomplished in converting a horse and buggy street system to automobile needs. As the total volume of traffic increases, however, certain new needs arise. An example is the desirability of grade separations at extremely heavy intersections, such as at Grand and Market and at Kingshighway and Lindell. Likewise there is a need for complete separation of grade where traffic volume is sufficiently heavy to justify the cost involved. The Federal Government, which has helped finance our splendid system of national highways, has recently revised its policies and Congress has appropriated substantial funds to aid the cities in the construction of express highways and for facilitation of traffic flows from certain selected state highways through metropolitan areas to the central business districts of large cities. (1947 Plan)

In just three decades St. Louis spent today’s equivalent of nearly a half a billion dollars on dramatic changes to the street grid.  Half a billion!

Franklin Ave looking East from 9th, 1928. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis

The reference to the “horse and buggy street system” illustrates he didn’t think it was suitable for the automobile. Bartholomew, a civil engineer by training, was no doubt influenced by the City Beautiful movement.

City Beautiful movement, American urban-planning movement led by architects, landscape architects, and reformers that flourished between the 1890s and the 1920s. The idea of organized comprehensive urban planning arose in the United States from the City Beautiful movement, which claimed that design could not be separated from social issues and should encourage civic pride and engagement. (Britannica)

This was soon followed by the modernists and their vision for roads to connect everything. The Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair was hugely popular, helped shape legislation that let to destructive urban renewal projects, interstate highways slicing through cities, etc.  See original 23-minute 1939 Futurama promo video.

Oscar Newman was born in 1935, so he was barely around during the 1939 fair. With the Great Depression & WWII the ideas from Futurama were on hold until he was a teen. Newman likely went along with most others, not foreseeing any problems with additional alterations to the street grid.

By the time republished his 1972 book urban renewal & highway projects had further disrupted the street grid beyond recognition. These changes are cumulative, not isolated. Our street grid was designed for the horse and buggy times — but that’s what made it go great. Street grids can take little changes and still function. St. Louis had decades of massive overwhelming changes to the street grid.

It has proven to be excessive. Abandonment, crime, etc are the results. I don’t know that it’s repairable.

Former Biddle Street, looking East toward 9th Street

The results from Sunday’s non-scientific poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: City streets closed to through traffic reduce crime.

  • Strongly agree: 1 [3.13%]
  • Agree: 2 [6.25%]
  • Somewhat agree: 6 [18.75%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 2 [6.25%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 2 [6.25%]
  • Disagree: 9 [28.13%]
  • Strongly disagree: 9 [28.13%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [3.13%]

More than half correct don’t think closed streets reduce crime.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Readers: City & County Police Should Merge

January 9, 2019 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Readers: City & County Police Should Merge
Tiny north county suburb of Flordell Hills no longer has their own police force, they contract with Velda City.

I thought more people would respond to the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll on merging the City & County police departments.

Q: Agree or disagree: The police departments for the city & county should merge.

  • Strongly agree: 6 [33.33%]
  • Agree: 4 [22.22%]
  • Somewhat agree: 2 [11.11%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [5.56%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [16.67%]
  • Disagree: 1 [5.56%]
  • Strongly disagree: 1 [5.56%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

I agree with the criticism of this plan — leaving 53 tiny unaccredited police departments in St. Louis County would be a mistake. I’m a huge fan of major consolidation, reorganization of the region, so it makes sense that I favor a more ambitious approach. That said, I don’t trust Rex Sinquefield or others in pushing for a merger plan.

I just can’t help but think it’ll be more self-serving than good for everyone in the region.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Financial Literacy Critical as World Goes Cashless

November 7, 2018 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy, Retail Comments Off on Opinion: Financial Literacy Critical as World Goes Cashless
Shake Shack is one of the places mentioned as going/being cashless. Since we use plastic I have no clue if they accept cash or not.

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was about cashless businesses — establishments where you need plastic (debit/credit) to purchase goods/services. I current live essentially a cashless life — save for one $2 PowerBall ticket per month. After having paid off mountains of credit card debt the 2nd time I vowed to never have credit cards again. Then, in 2012, I sold my car. For a few years prior I didn’t use bills & coins, just my debit card. Once I sold my car I knew I needed a dreaded credit card again to be able to rent a card at times.

My parents, both now deceased, were raised in Oklahoma during the Great Depression/Dust Bowl. They tried very hard to instill good money management habits in me. I listed…then did all the wrong things over and over. I was never a fan of cash, though I still remember going with my dad as a kid when he bought a used van from an individual. They haggled on the price and when they agreed on a number my dad pulls out his wallet from the bib in his work overalls. He then proceeded to count out the $5,o00-$6,000 amount in $100 bills. Today people would think they were counterfeit, but it was like 1981 and people were more trusting. The seller had a shocked look on his face because my dad never looked like he had much to his name — but he usually had a few thousand in cash on him. I rarely have more than $5 on me.

Since my stroke and father’s passing in 2008, and selling my car & meeting my husband in 2012, I’ve applied all the financial advice my parents gave me. I do things differently than they did, however. We pay for everything we can on credit cards. This allows me to do a monthly cash flow spreadsheet for the next month. I know when each payment is due and when we each get paid. By paying off all cards on the due date we don’t pay any interest. In fact, we basically borrow a couple of thousand dollars each month interest free.

I know a person who received a small amount from social security every month. The government stopped mailing checks long ago, and she can’t manage a checking account with or without a debit card. She got her benefits through a checking cashing place that charged high fees to receive her money electronically and convert it into cash for her. For those like her  they can receive benefits on a government debit card — no checking account required.  Still, it’s hard for people who’re used to carrying cash to adjust to non-cash on a debit-only or checking account. I’ve been trying to educate my brother-in-law for a few years now.

Which brings me to cashless businesses. I got on this topic because of the homeless asking me for change. I barely have a $5, and certainly don’t have any coins. I recognize it’s unlikely they realize the world is going cashless. Think of all the things that require plastic: renting scooters/bikes, parking apps, transit fare machines?, Redbox/Netflix.  There are non-attended gas stations, like the one at Broadway & Chouteau, that only accepts credit cards.

b

I worked retail for about 6 years when I was in high school & college, thankfully never encountered a robbery. For a few years I was one of the people that went to the registers at Toys “R” Us to remove excess cash during the holidays.

Last week one local retail clerk wasn’t so lucky.

An armed robber opened fire inside a Dollar General store in St. Louis Thursday afternoon, hitting and killing a store clerk, police said. (Post-Dispatch)

Going cashless can reduce crime.

In Sweden, which is leading the race toward a cashless society, negative attitudes toward the decline in cash usage has increased as the country progresses toward a cashless society. Although cash is still used extensively in several countries, such as Austria and Germany, the use of physical cash is diminishing across the board.

Even the U.S., where cash accounts for one-third of all purchases, the use of cash is declining. But at the same time, the amount of cash being issued is growing. Forty years ago there was approximately $80 billion of cash in circulation. Today, this number has increased nearly 20 times, to roughly $1.5 trillion in circulation. In the same period, the amount of $100 bills has increased from 25 percent in the mid-1970s to around 80 percent today.

The obvious explanation is inflation. However, the increase has exceeded inflation — with a good margin. According to economist and author Kenneth Rogoff, the world is drowning in cash, and it is making us poorer and less safe. He argues in his book The Curse of Cash that this phenomenon is not an American phenomenon, but also the case for every other widely used currency — and the primary explanation is that cash is the preferred means of value exchange in the black-market economy. His solution? Phase out the larger bills. (Techcrunch)

Of course cash is also the currency for legal medical & recreational marijuana — because retailers can’t get back accounts because of outdated federal drug laws.

I don’t want cash-only people to be excluded from society, but increasingly being cash-only means they’re not part of the mainstream. I want to help find ways to ease them into new habits. So do the credit card companies. They make their money from fees charged on every transaction. Those of us with excellent credit scores can get rewards cards to offset fees but most don’t qualify for these cards.

This is a long way of saying I have no clue about banning cashless businesses. Would have zero impact on my life either way, but would keep many from being excluded. In the non-scientific poll most didn’t think we should ban cashless businesses:

Q: Agree or disagree: St. Louis should ban cashless businesses & discounts for paying with cash

  • Strongly agree: 2 [8%]
  • Agree: 2 [8%]
  • Somewhat agree: 3 [12%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [4%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [12%]
  • Disagree: 6 [24%]
  • Strongly disagree: 7 [28%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [4%]

As more commerce moves online/apps the number of legal cash transactions will decline. As cash transactions decline and store robberies increase, we’ll see more businesses make the decision to go cashless.  Now is the time to increase financial literacy to help others adjust.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Missouri’s Investigation Into Clergy Abuse Will Find Results Similar To Pennsylvania

August 29, 2018 Crime, Featured, Missouri, Religion Comments Off on Opinion: Missouri’s Investigation Into Clergy Abuse Will Find Results Similar To Pennsylvania

Missouri Attorney General, Josh Hawley, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, recently opened an investigation into sex abuse by priests within the Catholic church:

This review makes Missouri the first state to publicly announce such an inquiry after the searing Pennsylvania grand jury report released last week, which documented a wave of abuses and coverups spanning decades and involving more than 300 Catholic priests.

It remains unclear whether other states have launched new efforts to investigate alleged abuses after the Pennsylvania report. While other states may be conducting or considering beginning investigations, none has said so publicly. The Washington Post reached out to the offices of attorneys general in 49 states and the District of Columbia after the Pennsylvania report was released to survey their responses. Authorities in most of these offices either said that they could not comment on potential investigations or that their offices lacked the authority to immediately act and investigate local cases.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis said Thursday that it welcomed the review in Missouri and that the examination was being conducted at its request. St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said he knew the public was calling on the attorney general’s office to investigate the Catholic Church and that “we have nothing to hide,” adding that he was inviting Hawley to review the church’s files on anyone who has been accused of sexual abuse. (Washington Post)

How did we get to this point?

Although some accusations date back to the 1950s, molestation by priests was first given significant media attention in the 1980s, in the US and Canada.

In the 1990s the issue began to grow, with stories emerging in Argentina, Australia and elsewhere. In 1995, the Archbishop of Vienna, Austria, stepped down amid sexual abuse allegations, rocking the Church there.

Also in that decade, revelations began of widespread historical abuse in Ireland. By the early 2000s, Church sexual abuse was a major global story. (BBC)

So a worldwide problem brought to light, once again, this time by Pennsylvania’s grand jury investigation.

It has even reached the head of the church.

A report released this weekend by a former Vatican ambassador to the United States charges that Pope Francis knew about sexual abuse by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, removed a suspension placed on him by Pope Benedict, and proceeded to make the known abuser one of his most trusted advisors. Pope Francis “knew from at least June 23, 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator, [but] he covered for him to the bitter end,” wrote Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, nuncio to Washington from 2011-2016, before demanding the pontiff resign. (USA Today)

Vigano is a right-wing critic of Pope Francis, so make of this what you will.

Cathedral Basilica St. Louis

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was on this topic. I phrased the question from the positive view — that Missouri wouldn’t be as bad as Pennsylvania.

Q: Agree or disagree: Missouri’s investigation into clergy sex abuse will uncover nothing like Pennsylvania’s recent case, on a per capita basis.

  • Strongly agree 2 [10%]
  • Agree 3 [15%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [15%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [5%]
  • Somewhat disagree 0 [0%]
  • Disagree 6 [30%]
  • Strongly disagree 1 [5%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 4 [20%]

Until it’s done none of us know what the outcome will be, but Bernard Law went to Boston from more than a decade in Springfield MO.

Law’s name became emblematic of the scandal that continues to trouble the church and its followers after a Boston Globe investigation revealed that he and other bishops covered up child abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese.

Law at the time apologized to victims of John Geoghan, a priest who had been moved from parish to parish, despite Law’s knowledge of his abuse of young boys. Geoghan was convicted in 2002 of indecent assault and battery on a 10-year-old boy. (CNN)

It seems likely priests were shifted around here just as they were in other states/countries.  Assuming the investigation isn’t just a political campaign stunt, I anticipate similar results to Pennsylvania — on a per capita basis. Pennsylvania has more than twice the population of Missouri.

Meanwhile the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue said the Pennsylvania report was lies.  “Most of the alleged victims were not raped: they were groped or otherwise abused, but not penetrated, which is what the word “rape” means.” 

My question is why does it appear clergy abusing children is more prevalent in Catholicism, compared to other religions around the world? Is my perception incorrect, are clergy in other religions doing the same thing? Leaders of other religions covering it up?

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Opinion: We Need To Rethink Our Entire Criminal Justice System

July 25, 2018 Crime, Featured Comments Off on Opinion: We Need To Rethink Our Entire Criminal Justice System
Bank of holding cells at police HQ

Decades ago both major political parties both wanted to appear “tough on crime”. which led to knew legislation, sentencing guidelines, etc. The results haven’t been what was expected. Instead of a deterrent to crime, or at least rehabilitation for first offenders, we’ve created a system of mass incarceration.

Over the past four decades, our country’s incarceration rate – the number of prisoners per capita – has more than quadrupled and is now unprecedented in world history. Today, roughly 2.2 million people are behind bars in the United States, an increase of 1.9 million since 1972. We have the world’s largest prison population – with one-quarter of its prisoners but just 5 percent of the total population. And, on any given day, some 7 million people – about one in every 31 people – are under the supervision of the corrections system, either locked up or probation or parole. This vast expansion of the corrections system – which has been called “the New Jim Crow” – is the direct result of a failed, decades-long drug war and a “law and order” movement that began amid the urban unrest of the late 1960s, just after the civil rights era. It’s a system marred by vast racial disparities – one that stigmatizes and targets young black men for arrest at a young age, unfairly punishes communities of color, burdens taxpayers and exacts a tremendous social cost. Today, African-American men who failed to finish high school are more likely to be behind bars than employed. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

This highly profitable system begins early, with the School-to-Prison Pipeline:

A disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse, or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished, and pushed out.  “Zero-tolerance” policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in schools lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline. (ACLU)

So I applaud St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardener for trying to change the current system — changes that will improve lives and potentially reduce crime.

“We’re looking to collaborate more with law enforcement because as law enforcement we have to say things aren’t working and we have to do things differently. So we have to change the narrative of more arrests means safer cities because St. Louis has done a great job arresting and prosecuting and we still are a less safe city,” said Gardner.

Gardner says alternatives for jail would include diversion programs. She said also wants to reform the bail system.

Gardner added she wants her office to reach out to groups that work with offenders to address the root of violence. (KMOV)

Earlier this year 60 Minutes took a look at German prisons, a stark contrast to our prisons:

In Germany, prison isn’t meant to punish, it’s designed to mirror normal life as much as possible. Among the privileges enjoyed by German prisoners: immaculate facilities, organized sports, video games and keys to their own cells. Inmates can wear street clothes and can freely decorate their own cells — keeping all sorts of household objects that American prison guards might consider dangerous. Prisoners who demonstrate good behavior can even leave prison for work or weekend getaways. Average Americans may balk at this level of freedom for convicted criminals, but prisons in Germany cost less and produce far fewer repeat offenders than U.S. prisons. (CBS News/60 Minutes)

Less cost, fewer repeat offenders. We need to admit our ‘tough on crime’ policies are as big a failure as our ‘war on drugs’ policies.

Readers were split in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Do the crime, do ALL the time (including non-violent offenders).

  • Strongly agree 4 [22.22%]
  • Agree 3 [16.67%]
  • Somewhat agree 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree 0 [0%]
  • Disagree 5 [27.78%]
  • Strongly disagree 4 [22.22%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [11.11%]

If we truly want to do reduce crime we must rethink our approach to criminal justice, because what we’ve been doing isn’t working.

— Steve Patterson

 

Advertisement



FACEBOOK POSTS

Notice of Open Meeting: Parking Commission of the City of St. Louis
Tomorrow at 12pm CST.
The meeting will be live-streamed via the STL Treasurer Facebook page.
... See MoreSee Less

2 days ago  ·  

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe