SPEECH: Greitens rolls out plan to address violence in St. Louis

Monday, Governor Greitens stood with clergy, law enforcement, and state leaders on the streets of North St. Louis to address violent crime in the city.

His remarks as prepared are below:

“This past Saturday night, at 10:30 PM, in the city of St. Louis, a man was driving home from the local store. There were other passengers in the car with him. All of them heard what sounded to them like fireworks. And they didn’t know what had happened until they saw the man slump over the steering wheel.

He had been shot in the head. He wasn’t the only one. This past weekend, five people were gunned down in the city of St. Louis. There were ten shootings in the course of 48 hours.

This is what happened just over the weekend—but it’s been going on for as long as many of us can remember. It’s gone on so long, in fact, that too often these just sound like mind-numbing statistics. They sound like numbers and noise.

We hear the news of the latest robbery or shooting, and we just change the channel or turn down the radio. What should sicken us too often barely registers. Violence that is extreme is too often considered routine.

And violence like this doesn’t just happen in one neighborhood or one corner of St. Louis. It affects all of us. It’s affected my family. A few months ago, my wife Sheena was robbed at gunpoint. We were lucky. No one was hurt. What we experienced was nothing compared to children who grow up with crime as a common part of their lives and days.

We have too many neighborhoods where good people feel that they need to get inside before the sun sets because it’s too dangerous after the sun goes down. Crime tears communities apart. Neighbors fear to help each other. Businesses close early. People from out of town won’t move to the city, and people from the neighborhood are afraid to come down for a meal and enjoy a ballgame.

For too long, people have talked about this problem—and then they talked some more and talked and talked and talked. Well, the time for talk is over. Today, we’ve come together to take action. The choice before us is clear: we can accept things as they are. Or we can resolve together to change them.

It’s not just those who’ve lost their lives to gunfire. It’s people who’ve had to deal with the trauma. It’s the teacher who has to explain to her class why there’s another empty seat in the classroom. It’s the grandmother who has to explain to her grandson why he has to sleep in the bathtub tonight. It’s the pastor who must find the right words of comfort for yet another child’s funeral. For too long, those voices have been ignored and abandoned.

Today, we declare that the days of ignoring this problem are done. We are rolling up our sleeves and taking strong action to protect people. We are bringing together an unprecedented set of state, federal, and city resources to create peace in our communities. A Special Operations Unit of the Missouri State Highway Patrol began work last night and will continue to assist local law enforcement to suppress violent crime on our highways.

I was riding with these men and women. Every one of them volunteered. And in their first night alone, they had dozens of felony arrests, drug stops, and took drunk drivers off the streets.

The state of Missouri is also deploying a special team of police officers to find and shut down locations that sell illegal drugs to kids.

We are bringing in specialized drug interdiction air assets to track down dealers and violent felons.

For the first time, the state of Missouri will be joining the FBI and DEA’s Mission Save task force—which is focused on reducing violence by targeting the most violent offenders. It’s a model that has reduced violence in major American cities, and we’re proud to join our federal and local partners in this effort.

All of these steps are important. Yet for too long, we’ve been led to believe that the work of building peace belongs to police—and police alone.

This effort needs more than just law enforcement. That’s why all of our state’s leaders will be engaged in this mission.

You heard from Anne Precythe, the head of The Department of Corrections. We’re removing 450 convicted criminals from the street and ensuring that when they reenter society, it will be in a safe and productive way. When someone comes out of prison, they should have a skill and a path to a job.

Our Department of Social Services will begin training local school leaders to recognize the effect on children of abuse at home and violence in their communities.

The Department of Mental Health is going to be working closely with law enforcement to provide tactics, training, and procedures to help us de-escalate situations and avoid violence whenever possible.

The Department of Social Services will also begin working with a coalition of faith-based leaders to connect members of the clergy with the resources they need to help their congregation and their communities.

That’s why I’m so pleased to see Rev. Ken McCoy, Bishop Ron Webb, Bishop Larry Jones. And as all of these clergy leaders will tell you this work must be a partnership.

And that’s why, this morning, I met with CEOs from Civic Progress to discuss what the business community can do to take an active role in promoting safer streets.

Tonight, we’re going to a dinner, organized by Bishop Jones, with Mothers of the Victims of Violence, to hear directly from them what they need—and how we can help.

Why do we do this? We do this because everyone has a role to play. Because we need the perspective of law enforcement, we also need the perspective of a mom who had lost a child to violence. Because we need the perspective of the clergy, and we need the perspective of our business community. We need our charities, and we also need our leaders in government.

And we are bringing people together to solve this problem and take back the community. Problems that have developed over the course of decades will not be fixed in one summer. But they can be fixed. Other cities have done this.

Part of the problem in St. Louis is that people have come to believe that nothing can be done. The people with me today, the people here, we refuse to accept that. The only things that are unacceptable to us are excuses and inaction.

It is unacceptable to us to stand by and let another child get shot. It is unacceptable to us to let another family be terrorized. It is unacceptable to us to continue to simply accept things the way they have been.

I’d ask all of you, parents and children, clergy and congregants, law enforcement and business leaders to work with us. Together we can do better. Together we can save lives. Let’s get to work. Thank you and God bless you.”

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