If you are planning a visit to St. Louis, here’s the first thing you should know: Our community is safe and welcoming. In fact, St. Louis is as safe as any other major urban area in the United States. Like other metropolitan areas, however, visitors must remain vigilant and aware of their surrounding by taking simple, easy steps to reduce their chances of being a victim of crime. Explore St. Louis, the Metropolitan Police Department, Downtown STL and many other organizations are working diligently to ensure that both visitors and residents remain safe during their stay. To gain a better understanding regarding crime in our region, please read this fact-based Q&A for the real story about safe and sound St. Louis.
Is St. Louis a safe place to visit?
Yes. Overall, safety in St. Louis is no different than any other urban area. In fact, crime in St. Louis has declined by nearly 50 percent over the past decade (see graph below). It is important to understand that most criminal activity in St. Louis occurs in a handful of block segments, accounting for the majority of violent crime in the city. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department proactively patrols and responds to these areas, utilizing new and innovative strategies, tactics and technology to keep local citizens and visitors safe. While working to keep the entire city safe for local visitors and citizens the police are focused on reducing crime in these challenged areas of our community.
Why does St. Louis often rank in the media as one of the most dangerous American cities?
Because some media in search of ratings and readership attempt to manipulate the annual FBI Uniform Crime Reporting to compare cites creating skewed, distorted and meaningless crime rankings. The FBI, Council of Mayors and leading criminologists all warn that the FBI data should not be used for comparison purposes because of differing and inconsistent geographic boundaries of American cities. Because of the very small geographic boundary of St. Louis City compared to the much larger metro area, these rankings fail to correctly interpret the data and do not give an accurate depiction of crime in our region. When population and crime statistics in both St. Louis city and county are combined, as they are in most metropolitan areas, St. Louis compares much better in these national rankings. For the real truth behind St. Louis’ crime statistics, click on the video below.
What steps are being taken to reduce crime in downtown St. Louis?
The Mayor, Downtown STL and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department have taken numerous steps to prevent crime in downtown. In addition to increased patrols, St. Louis officials are taking active steps to help prevent crime including:
- The creation of the St. Louis metropolitan Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center monitors many areas of the city on a 24/7 basis. With access to both private and public cameras, the Center is able to monitor, track and assist police in real-time responses.
- A series of high visibility cameras have been installed throughout downtown. Featuring easily visible, flashing red and blue lights, these security cameras provide reassurance and comfort in knowing that the environment around them is being watched. Since criminals know these areas are being actively monitored, these cameras serve as a strong crime deterrent.
- Police have installed license plate recognition cameras (or LPRs) throughout the city. These cameras read the license plate numbers of 10,000 vehicles each day entering downtown St. Louis. By putting photographs together with data, police are able to track stolen plates or even stolen cars leading to the apprehension of criminals. Studies across the country have shown that where LPRs are in use, they prevent crime from occurring. Because the program has been so successful in St. Louis, officials are looking to expand the number of LPRs throughout the region.
- More lighting continues to be installed throughout downtown. Not only does increased lighting show that the community cares, more lighting is an effective determinant to criminal activity.
- The SLMPD has launched a smartphone app to better connect citizens to the Department with the use of technology. Through the app, users can submit tips, report crimes and request city services from the City of St. Louis Citizens’ Service Bureau. It also provides the SLMPD the ability to issue alerts providing important information for the public’s attention. More information on the app can be found at http://www.facebook.com/SaintLouisMetropolitanPoliceDepartment/.
What steps can visitors take to reduce their chance of being a victim of crime?
Personal responsibility is a key factor in eliminating crime and reducing your chances of being a victim. The following are some easy, preventative measures to keep you safe:
- Make sure the belongings in your car are property stored away from view. Nothing invites criminal activity more than leaving valuables (such as purses, luggage, laptops, cell phones, cameras, etc.) left visible in a parked car.
- Lock your car. It sounds simple, but you can greatly reduce the chance of a break-in by simply locking your vehicle and parking it in a designated parking area.
- Park at Preferred Downtown Parking Facility. Downtown St. Louis offers 15 visitor parking facilities that meet both the security and service standards our guests expect. These approved facilities can be found at http://getaroundstl.com/attractions/parking/.
- Most importantly, don’t ignore your feelings or intuition. If an individual or an area doesn’t seem “right,” then leave it and find a safe place where there are many people, or police, or security officers.
- Panhandling is illegal in St. Louis. Please do not encourage or reward panhandling.
- Avoid shortcuts that take you through alleys, gangways and other unlit, isolated areas.
- When possible, walk in groups, especially at night
More tips on how you can be safe are available at http://www.slmpd.org/crime_prevention.shtml.