Today, Governor Mike Parson announced a special session beginning Monday, July 27, which will focus on addressing violent crime in Missouri.
Governor Parson was joined at the press conference by Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten, Missouri State Highway Patrol Colonel Eric Olson, Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish, who currently serves as president of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, and several law enforcement officers.
“As Governor and a former law enforcement officer for more than 22 years, protecting our citizens and upholding the laws of our state are of utmost importance to my administration,” Governor Parson said. “We know we have a serious problem with violent crime here in Missouri that must be addressed. Violent crime has been a problem in our state long before COVID-19, and we have seen it escalate even more in recent weeks, specifically in our big cities.”
Missouri has seen rapid increases in crime rates this year, primarily in the state’s urban areas. Kansas City recently reached 101 homicides for 2020 – a 35 percent increase from 2019. In St. Louis, there have been 130 homicides so far this year compared to 99 at the same time last year.
From May to June alone, data from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department shows significant increases in reports of violent crime. In St. Louis County, aggravated assaults with a firearm are up 19 percent year-to-date.
“These are just the grim numbers, but the effects of violent crime across our state are best measured in lives – lives lost, futures cut short, and families hurting,” Governor Parson said. “All of this is unacceptable. We are better than that in Missouri, and we must hold violent criminals accountable for their actions.”
“I want to be clear that violent crime isn’t just a St. Louis or Kansas City problem,” Governor Parson continued. “It is a Missouri problem, and we cannot wait until next session to address it. It must be addressed now, which is why we are having this special session.”
The special session will focus on amending state statutes related to violent crime. Specifically, six different provisions will be considered:
Police and Public Safety Employee Residency Requirements for St. Louis – The proposal to be considered would eliminate the residency requirement for St. Louis law enforcement so long as the officer lives within an hour of the city. This proposal would also prohibit requiring any public safety employee for the city of St. Louis to be a resident of the City.
Juvenile Certification – This proposal requires the court to determine if a juvenile should be certified for trial as an adult for the offense of unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action.
Witness Statement Admissibility – This proposal would allow certain statements to be admissible in court that would otherwise not be allowed under current statute.
Witness Protection Fund – This proposal creates the Pretrial Witness Protection Fund.
Endangering the Welfare of a Child – This proposal modifies the offense of endangering the welfare of a child for a person who encourages a child to engage in any weapons offense.
Unlawful Transfer of Weapons – This proposal would increase penalty for a person who knowingly sells or delivers any firearm to a child less than 18 years without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.
“If we are to change violent criminal acts across our state, we must work together,” Governor Parson said. “We must do our jobs. We must support our law enforcement officers, and we must start prioritizing the prevention of violent crime.”
To view the special session proclamation, click here. To view Governor Parson’s remarks from the press conference, click here.
In a statement posted on Facebook later in the day by the governor, he said, If our criminal justice system is going to work, ALL parts of it must be in sync. Law enforcement, prosecution, and sentencing.
If any of these aren’t working right or aren’t doing their job, the whole system fails. The only way we can truly make a difference, fight violent crime, and make our communities safer is by working together.
If you talk to any county or city police department, there are hundreds of unfilled law enforcement positions simply because less and less people want to work in this arena.
People need to understand the sacrifices that law enforcement officers make every day, especially with everything that’s going on in our state right now.
If there was ever a time to stand up for law enforcement, now is the time. They are the front-line response for Missourians. We must support them and give them the respect they deserve, because we cannot fix this problem without them.
If we are to change violent criminal acts across our state, we must work together, we must do our jobs, and WE MUST support our law enforcement officers.