St. Louis chief seeks Highway Patrol help to fight crime

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ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – Missouri Highway Patrol troopers could soon be walking beats in downtown St. Louis along with city officers.  It’s a proposal taken to Jefferson City by St. Louis chief Sam Dotson, who sees it as a quick way to add manpower as he tries to get more officers.

In a way, the move is about peace of mind.  The chief says crime overall continues to drop in the city, but there have been enough high profile violent crimes in the downtown area recently to warrant action.  The cases include the murder of Bobby Christman, 19, just off Washington Avenue earlier this month.

“Over the last quarter or so I’ve seen some trends that are very alarming to me,” he said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

Dotson and Mayor Francis Slay are in the process of trying to add 160 officers to the department, but even if they find the money, hiring and training them could take eighteen months.  Dotson decided to propose a partnership with the highway patrol that would allow a quick addition of manpower downtown.

“It gives us more resources, another ten or twelve officers that can be in an area that is concerned.  The downtown is the economic engine for the region.  So we have to make sure the downtown area thrives whether its convention business, hotel and restaurant, so if I can do something to make people feel safer in that area I’m gonna do it.”

Dotson says troopers came to St. Louis back in the 1990’s and highway patrol officials also say such a move has precedent.

“In the mid 1990's we were participating with the COPS program which is a community oriented policing program, we did a similar type project at that time with the Kansas City police department,” Highway Patrol Captain Tim Hull told us by phone from Jefferson City.

Hull says the proposal is still under review by brass at the MHP headquarters.

Dotson is hopeful things will move forward, saying the troopers would be paired with city officers and very visible to the public.

“Walking in visible places downtown.  You’ve got the hockey arena, the baseball stadium that will be live again when the Cardinals come back, the convention center, the football stadium.  In that density, it made sense.  So the question was, is can we do it?”