A city alderman frustrated with the police response to rising crime called Tuesday on residents to arm themselves to protect their lives and property.
Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe said police are ineffective, outnumbered or don't care about the increase in crime in his north St. Louis ward. St. Louis has had 157 homicides in 2008, 33 more than last year at this time.
"The community has to be ready to defend itself, because it's clear the economy is going to get worse, and criminals are getting more bold," Troupe, 72, said Tuesday.
Troupe said that when he and residents approached a district police commander last year, they were told "there was nothing he could do to protect us and the community ... that he didn't have the manpower."
Police did not immediately return requests for comment. Chief Dan Isom wrote Tuesday in a department blog that citizens arming themselves will lead to more danger, not less, he said.
Neighborhood watch groups, and the hard work of helping to eradicate poverty and other social ills, are better crime-prevention tools, he said.
Mayor Francis Slay wrote in his blog Tuesday that some of the most violent crimes in Troupe's ward are committed with guns stolen from law-abiding citizens.
He said Troupe could do more good urging residents to cooperate with investigating police officers, lending support for activities for children, and lobbying legislators to increase funding for jobs training and economic development.
Troupe's reaction to the spike in homicides is understandable, but his idea is not likely to be effective, said University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld.
"Much of the problem is free and easy access to guns," Rosenfeld said. "This hope that by putting guns in the right hands will have an influence on criminals is a false hope. There's no evidence for that."
In one of the latest violent crimes in St. Louis, a man was shot dead Monday and an unarmed potential suspect in the killing was shot by police. The 45-year-old suspect had put his hand inside his coat and two officers, fearing for their safety, shot him. He was in stable condition.