St. Louis: America's Reigning Murder Capital

St. Louis: America's Reigning Murder Capital
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis, famously known as the Gateway to the West, has become America’s reigning murder capital and a symbol of urban decay—trends accelerated in recent years by a soft-on-crime mayor and a social justice-minded prosecutor. Last month, the images of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, both armed, confronting protesters in front of their restored mansion in the historic Central West End district of downtown St. Louis previewed what a defund-the-police era may look like. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis, St. Louis, like other American cities, faced a crisis of public order. Businesses were burned to the ground, and looters roamed freely. Four St. Louis police officers were shot in one night. Civic unrest was so widespread that first responders took nearly 30 minutes to reach a 7-Eleven set aflame by rioters. The city’s elected leaders have seemingly abandoned the police.

St. Louis’s current condition reflects a decades-long tumble from growth and prosperity to decline and disorder. Back in its heyday more than a century ago, St. Louis simultaneously hosted the World’s Fair and the summer Olympics. In the later twentieth century, it remained a thriving center for business and culture. While the city retains elite universities and a handful of Fortune 500 companies, its population is less than half its mid-twentieth-century peak, and its crime rate consistently places it within the top-ten most homicidal metropolises in the world. Many large companies are looking to relocate from the area, and city residents have accepted that violent crime is now a part of daily life. Nationally, the region’s civic standing has dramatically eroded, making headlines mostly for bad news, especially, in recent years, high-profile police officer shootings—most notably the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, a small jurisdiction within St. Louis County.

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