ST. LOUIS - A St. Louis city leader is proposing a new approach to reducing gun violence in the city after several other U.S. cities that have implemented the program have seen a reduction in crime.
Operation Ceasefire was founded in Boston in the 1990s after the city saw an epidemic of homicides among Boston youth. The plan focused on the intervention of gun trafficking and gangs.
Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed has been studying and pushing for St. Louis to adopt this program for nearly six years. Ceasefire St. Louis proposes using prevention, intervention, and community-mobilization to reduce gun violence.
Reed said he and his family have been impacted by gun violence, and he does not want other families to feel the same devastation. According to Reed, they need to address the economic problems that drive someone to a life of crime by connecting the individual with organizations and resources that can put them on a better path.
Wednesday night (Jan. 16), Reed shared the plan with a crowd at Tower Grove Church. The event was sponsored by Reed, Tower Grove Heights Neighborhood Ownership Model, Tower Grove East Neighborhood Ownership Model, and Shaw Neighborhood Ownership Model. It was open to anyone interested in combating crime in the region.
Randee Steffen lives in Creve Coeur but wanted to attend the meeting because she is passionate about reducing gun violence. "Making sure that our city is safer and our community is safer, and that we as an entire metro area are not riddled with the violence that we are right now, and anything that we can do to reduce that, I'm certainly interested in."
Reed said to be successful, Ceasefire St. Louis will require participation from every corner of the community like schools, non-profits, clergy, business leaders, city services and police. Mostly, it will require enough people to say 'enough is enough.'
"To some degree, we've become numb to the amount of violence and the murder statistics," said Ryan Barry with Tower Grove Heights Neighborhood Ownership Model. "It takes, sometimes, catching a flight to St. Louis and the comments that you hear on that plane when you're waiting to disembark, or an H.R. call to an employee who doesn't want to move to St. Louis because of our reputation. It's things like that we want to change. We want to change the narrative and save lives."
Reed said things will not change overnight, but the U.S. Department of Justice says cities, where a Ceasefire plan has been implemented, have seen a major reduction in crime. Boston saw a 63% reduction in crime, crime in Nashville is down 55 percent, Cincinnati saw a 41 reduction, and in Indianapolis crime is down 34 percent.
Event organizers say implementation is the next step.
"We can talk all day long, we can have strategic plans all day long, but if you can't implement it, you're really not going to get anything," said Dan Powell with the Shaw Neighborhood Ownership Model. "So, I think we need people that are able to implement and be able to implement Operation Ceasefire. I think if we can find those people, we can get it done. I think there's always obstacles, but we're just going to need to find a way to get around those obstacles."
Powell said he plans to meet with the other neighborhood leaders to write letters to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson. They hope to gain her support and work together to create a plan for change in St. Louis.