For a number of years now, the St. Louis newspaper has found a fascination with the poverty, illiteracy and dismal conditions of the Missouri Bootheel. The old Globe-Democrat held a particular obsession with explaining to the state just how backward and poor our region of the state was. The Post-Dispatch has not shied from the issue either.
Well now, let's talk about the city of St. Louis. That metropolitan area was named this week as the most dangerous city in the United States with violent crime up 20 percent, far, far ahead of the national rate. This marks the first time St. Louis has topped the dubious list, though it has staked a claim in the top 10 most dangerous for years.
But there a deeper story behind the obvious. St. Louis has but 330,000 residents. Most of we outsiders consider the entire metro area when we think of St. Louis but in fact, almost a million residents live in the St. Louis suburbs which are growing like wildfire. That leaves the city limits to a smaller population and thus, the crime statistics are somewhat tilted because of the smaller city population.
The city, once again, will focus their efforts on the problem neighborhoods, located primarily in north St. Louis, where drugs and poverty rule the streets. But a higher police presence will just shift the crime from the streets to the alleys. The problem is much deeper than more cops on the streets.
Gangs, drugs and too many guns. There's the problem. And we all know it.
But what we lack is a solution. We think that if jobs were available these young men would be employed and bringing home a paycheck so that would solve the problem. But that's not true. We think that if we stress education and values at an early age, that would solve the problem. That, too, is not true.
What police battle is a culture of violence. Senseless territorial disputes - turf battles - escalate into all-out warfare. Drug dealers make the money so others want to become drug dealers and enjoy the easy money and all that goes with the culture. A total disrespect for the property or lives of others is commonplace. And our only solution is to form yet another task force and concentrate our efforts in the high crime areas?
Here's another perplexing aspect of the crime issue. The threat of jail time does not bring the level of fear or concern that most of us would hold. That, too, is part of the culture of violence.
Is St. Louis still safe to visit? Yes, without a doubt. Are there areas of the city that you should avoid. Well, obviously yes. We can only hope that the police and city officials adopt a plan that will stem the rising crime rate. Like so many others, I see the problem but I lack a solution. And in that regard, St. Louis is no different than hundreds of other cities - large and small.