ST. LOUIS – Eric Schmitt says being Missouri's attorney general is a unique honor and really knows the St. Louis metropolitan area well, having grown up in Bridgeton.
He says he wants his time in office to be of significance for Missourians.
“I want this office to be the envy of attorneys general offices across the country,” he said.
Schmitt recruited a couple heavyweights from the US Attorney's Office. Tom Albus will be his first assistant and Chris Stephens will head up his criminal division.
“People deserve to feel safe,” Schmitt said. “My job is to protect all six million Missourians, whether it is violent crime, human trafficking, or the opioid epidemic; and carjackings are on the rise in St. Louis.”
Schmitt has his work cut out. For three straight years, homicides in St. Louis County and its municipalities have gone up and are at all-time highs. And in the last year, there have been 32 shootings on highways and entrance and exits ramps in St. Louis City.
Can Schmitt change that from a law standpoint?
“I think so, I'm optimistic…We’re going to do everything we can to work with local law enforcement and local prosecutors,” he said.
Schmitt says he’s already met with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and an announcement would be coming soon regarding a partnership of sorts to combat violent crime.
“There's a lot we can do to assist local prosecutors and we want to be part of the solution,” he said. “It’s a big deal.”
But the attorney general's office can’t help unless they are invited in to assist. Schmitt says he has a sit down with St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell coming up. He appreciates the drug diversion programs Bell is setting up.
“Ultimately, we want people to feel safe to not be repeat offenders and so drug treatment courts have been effective,” Schmitt said. “When it comes to violent crime, we have to have zero tolerance.”
In one of his first acts in office, Schmitt gave his official support to a man trying to end the practice of modern-day debtors' prisons in Missouri.
“People deserve to be treated fairly and not as ATMs for government bureaucrats. That's a focus of our office,” he said.
Schmitt says he has an outstanding team and they want to hear from citizens on how his office can better serve them.