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Who suffers from defunding the police? This Blue city still has over 1K unsolved murders

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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 spike in crime, reporting a 21% decrease in murders in 2023 compared to the previous year. Still, more than 1,000 murders committed in the past decade in the city remain unsolved.

St. Louis Police Department at all-time low following efforts to cut police budget: ‘It’s out of control’

Police are investigating the scene of a shooting that occurred on August 12, 2019 in the 3500 block of North 14th Street in St. Louis, Missouri, in which a 7-year-old boy was shot and killed and an 18-year-old boy was critically injured. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Thomas Hargrove, founder of the Murder Accountability Project, an organization that collects data on unsolved murders, reports that there have been 1,903 murders in St. Louis from 2013 to 2022, with 1,068 of those still unsolved. That equates to a solved murder rate, or solve rate, of about 44 percent, according to data from police and the FBI.

“St. Louis has a lower clearance rate than the national average,” Hargrove told Fox News Digital. “For much of the year, most police departments had clearance rates around 55 percent, maybe approaching 60 percent. St. Louis is well below that, but major urban centers routinely report clearance rates below 50 percent, so St. Louis is not particularly out of the ordinary.”

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

“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.

Black Lives Matter riots in St. Louis, Missouri

A car is on fire at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Tucker Boulevard in St. Louis on June 2, 2020. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

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. Frankly, homicide and homicide clearance rates are dependent on available personnel and other resources,” Hargrove said. “It’s not uncommon for large cities like St. Louis to suffer from a lack of resources, and St. Louis is one of the worst.”

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-Missouri) and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones support cutting the St. Louis Police Department’s budget. In 2021, Jones diverted $4 million from the police overtime budget, hired a social worker within the department, and increased funding for affordable housing. Still, current officers will receive pay raises of between 8% and 13% this year.

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

My husband, Captain David Dorn, was murdered in the 2020 riots. His killers helped divide America.

“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.

Since 2021, the bureau’s solve rates have been compiled through the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and are automatically updated in the system as cases are solved. Wall said that wasn’t the case when the old system was in use prior to 2021.

“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.”

“Nobody wants to come to town and be a police officer anymore.”

Anne Dorn

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 solved. If there’s no cooperation between the police and the communities they serve, crimes don’t get 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.

St. Louis school shooting suspect

Police are investigating the scene of a shooting that occurred on Oct. 24, 2022, at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Scales spoke with police and agreed to testify in the case, but he continued to receive shots and verbal threats in the months that followed, the group reported, citing a lawsuit filed by Scales’ parents and police reports.

According to the lawsuit, Scales’ mother also said her home was shot at and that a “messenger” had told her not to go to court. Scales was shot and killed the following year while waiting for a school bus. Four men were charged with her murder but later acquitted. The defendants against whom Scales testified were also acquitted.

Wall said cooperation between police and the community, and between police and the Circuit Attorney’s Office, was paramount in solving the case.

When asked about unsolved murders, the Missouri Attorney General’s office presented Fox News Digital with a damning report about Kim Gardner, a Democrat and former St. Louis Circuit Attorney. The report, titled “The Kim Gardner Report,” outlines her “willful neglect of duty” during her tenure from 2016 to 2023.

Gardner was elected the city’s first Black circuit attorney and was part of a movement of progressive prosecutors who called for a shift to mental health and substance abuse treatment for minor crimes, pledged to increase police accountability and aggressively sought the release of wrongfully convicted inmates.

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.

Kim Gardner

Former St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a progressive prosecutor who served from 2016 to 2023, was criticized for not prosecuting existing cases. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via The Associated Press)

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

Wall said police reported solving 92 of the city’s 162 homicides last year, giving it a solution rate of about 57 percent. So far in 2024, there have been 80 homicides, of which 51, or 64 percent, have been solved, although data from the past 18 months has not yet been verified by the FBI.

Additionally, shootings fell by 24%, according to the 2023 crime report released by the mayor’s office and the SLMPD. There were also declines in crimes such as felony theft, motor vehicle theft and robbery.

“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.

“Our cold cases will always be open, we will always investigate those cases and ultimately bring justice to murder victims and their families,” Wall said. “One cold case is one too many, and our investigators are working tirelessly to bring justice to victims and their families.”

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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 can 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.”

Fox News’ Elizabeth Heckman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.