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Who suffers from defunding the police? This blue city has over 1,000 unsolved murders

Police in St. Louis, Missouri, are battling severe budget cuts and severe staffing shortages in the wake of a campaign to defund the police, but the city has more than 1,000 unsolved murders and is consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous in America.

In 2019 and 2020, St. Louis had one of the highest murder rates per 100,000 people of any major U.S. city, including that of former St. Louis Police Chief David Dorn, who was killed during protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

However, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) has shown some success in curbing the surge in crime, reporting a 21% decrease in homicides in 2023 compared to the previous year.

Yet more than 1,000 murders that have occurred in the city over the past decade remain unsolved.

Thomas Hargrove, founder of the Murder Accountability Project, an organization that collects data on unsolved murders, reported that from 2013 to 2022, there were 1,903 murders in St. Louis, with 1,068 of those still unsolved.

Police closed off Delmar Street at Josephine Baker Boulevard, where a St. Louis police officer shot another officer in the leg on June 5, 2019, killing a man. Tribune News Service via Getty Images

This equates to a murder solution rate, or clearance rate, of about 44 percent, according to data from police and the FBI.

“St. Louis’ clearance rate is lower than the national average,” Hargrove told Fox News Digital. “Most years, most police departments have clearance rates around 55 percent, maybe closer to 60 percent.”

St. Louis is well below that, but major urban centers routinely report arrest rates below 50%, so St. Louis is not an outlier.”

Hargrove said St. Louis faces serious financial challenges due to the city’s declining tax base and an exodus of residents.

Crime scene investigators seize evidence just south of Delmar Boulevard near Josephine Baker Boulevard and Samuel Shepherd Drive, the scene of an incident Thursday, June 5, 2019, where a St. Louis police officer shot another officer in the leg, leaving the man dead. Tribune News Service via Getty Images

“For the past three years, St. Louis has had an average of about 6,000 fewer residents each year than the year before,” Hargrove said.

Police personnel are also declining, with the police department budgeted for about 1,220 officers but with more than 300 vacancies, according to a December report. In 1998, the force was more than 1,600 officers.

In 2019, police homicide budgets were cut for the third time since 2012. American Public Media reported.

“Police are trying to do more with less, and that’s a problem. And let’s be honest, the rate at which they solve murders and homicide cases is dependent on the personnel and other resources that are available,” Hargrove said.

A protester overturns a police vehicle during a protest in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 25, 2014. Getty Images

“It’s not uncommon for large cities like St. Louis to have resource problems, and St. Louis has some of the worst of them all.”

Dorn’s widow, Ann Dorn, told Fox News earlier this year that the campaign to cut the police budget was having a negative impact on morale in the city and that as a result, “we’re losing officers one after another.”

Both Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones support cutting the budget for the St. Louis Police Department.

In 2021, Jones diverted $4 million from the police overtime budget to hire a social worker within the department and increase funding for affordable housing.

Nonetheless, current police officers will receive pay increases of between 8% and 13% this year.

The offices of Bush and Jones did not respond to requests for comment from Fox News Digital.

“Nobody wants to come into the city and be a cop anymore. It’s out of control. We weren’t like that until the last five or 10 years,” Dorn said.

South Lancashire Police spokesman Sergeant Charles Wall told Fox News Digital that police clearance rates had increased due to changes in the way figures were reported.

Beginning in 2021, the bureau’s solve rates will be compiled through the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and will be automatically updated in the system as cases are solved.

Wall said that wasn’t the case before 2021 when the old system was in use.

A car burns on the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Tucker Boulevard on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. TNS via Getty Images

“We don’t have the ability to go back and delete historical numbers on a regular basis, and that’s a big advantage of the NIBRS technology — these numbers are constantly updated to reflect changes,” Wall said.

“As an agency, we have solved many more problems, but they cannot be easily quantified. The way they are reported can be misleading and it is unfortunate that such confusion exists.”

Still, based on available figures, the number of unsolved homicides in St. Louis disproportionately impacts the Black community, with a 48% resolution rate for white victims compared to 36.5% for Black victims from 2013 to 2022. About 43.7% of the city’s population of 298,000 is Black, according to 2022 census data.

“In most large cities, black murders are less likely to be solved than white murders,” Hargrove said.

“And a major part of that is because black communities don’t trust the police and are not willing to come forward and be witnesses. That’s the only way murders are going to be solved. If there’s no cooperation between the police and the communities that they serve, crimes aren’t going to be solved. That’s it.”

Some critics blame the disproportionate case-solving rate on the low number of black detectives in St. Louis, but there have also been cases of potential witness intimidation in black communities, creating a chilling effect in the community as people are afraid to talk to police.

For example, the Marshall Project, a nonprofit criminal justice organization, reported that 16-year-old James Scales witnessed the murder of his friend, Dwayne Clanton, 18, in December 2016.

Police guard the Ferguson Police Station after riots erupted following the grand jury announcement in the Michael Brown case on November 24, 2014. Getty Images

Still, based on available figures, the number of unsolved homicides in St. Louis disproportionately impacts the Black community, with a 48% resolution rate for white victims compared to 36.5% for Black victims from 2013 to 2022. About 43.7% of the city’s population of 298,000 is Black, according to 2022 census data.

“In most big cities, black murders are less likely to be solved than white murders,” Hargrove said. “And the main reason for that is that black communities don’t trust the police and are refusing to be willing to come forward and be witnesses. That’s the only way murders are going to be solved. If there’s no cooperation between the police and the communities they serve, crimes aren’t going to be solved. That’s it.”

Some critics blame the disproportionate case-solving rate on the low number of black detectives in St. Louis, but there have also been cases of potential witness intimidation in black communities, creating a chilling effect in the community as people are afraid to talk to police.

Dozens of St. Louis riot police officers armed with batons marched toward a large group of protesters on Olive Street. NurPhoto via Getty Images

For example, the Marshall Project, a nonprofit criminal justice organization, reported that 16-year-old James Scales witnessed the murder of his friend, Dwayne Clanton, 18, in December 2016.

Prior to his resignation, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, a Republican, filed a lawsuit seeking his removal from office for failing to prosecute existing cases, failing to bring charges in cases brought by police, and failing to consult with and inform victims and their families of their status. Gardner said Bailey’s attacks were politically and racially motivated.

Despite the high number of unsolved murders, the SLMPD appears to be making progress.

Wall said police departments reported solving 92 of the city’s 162 homicides last year, a solution rate of about 57 percent.

On September 17, 2017, protesters kicked out the front window of a nail salon in St. Louis, Missouri. NurPhoto via Getty Images

There have been 80 murders so far in 2024, and 51 of them, or 64%, have been solved, although data from the past 18 months has not yet been verified by the FBI.

Additionally, shootings decreased by 24% according to the 2023 crime report released by the Mayor’s Office and SLMPD.

Felony theft, motor vehicle theft and robbery also saw declines.

“We are constantly investigating new information and investigations to solve murder cases,” Wall said, noting that dedicated detectives remain committed to the gruesome 1983 case in which a black girl, known as Jane Doe, between the ages of 8 and 11, was found dead.

A looted GameStop store is seen following protests in St. Louis, Missouri on June 2, 2020. Getty Images

“Our cold cases will always be open, we will always investigate those cases and ultimately bring justice to homicide victims and their families,” Wall said.

“One unsolved case is one too many, and our investigators are working tirelessly to achieve justice for victims and their families.”

Meanwhile, Hargrove said the entire city will suffer if the killer is not brought to justice.

“Nothing good comes from allowing most murderers to roam the streets. They’re likely to kill again,” Hargrove said.

“A murderer who remains at large inspires others and shows them that murder goes unpunished. A murderer who remains at large inspires revenge killings. If police cannot make an arrest, loved ones may feel they must face justice themselves.”

“Murder can beget murder, especially unsolved murders.”

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