Reed pushes funding for new programs, body cameras to deal with killings

Reed pushes funding for new programs, body cameras to deal with killings

CITY HALL – Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed says he’s seen too many children die from gunshots.

“As a father of four, words cannot express how heartbroken I am for them and the many others that have faced this similar reality,” he said.

Now he says he’s had enough and is pushing for the city to fund two programs that he thinks might cut the number of killings.  Mayor Lyda Krewson took measures Wednesday to jump start one of the ideas. 

That’s the Cure Violence program, which claims to have led to reductions in murder rate in other cities by treating violence the way you would treat a virus or some other disease.

Krewson, in a letter to Comptroller Darlene Green, requested the latter’s office to use emergency powers under the city charter to skip the city’s lengthy request for proposal system and get the plan moving “as soon as possible.”

Officials talked about using the Cure Violence program when they allocated $500,000 in the 2019-2020 budget for an anti-violence program. Reed had worried the city might not use the program, and sent Krewson a public letter of thanks, Wednesday, in response to her call for action from the comptroller. 

The Cure Violence website states: “Cure Violence stops the spread of violence by using the methods and strategies associated with disease control – detecting and interrupting conflicts, identifying and treating the highest-risk individuals, and changing social norms, resulting (in) reductions in violence of up to 70 percent.”

Among other things, the program identifies situations such as a prior shooting that may result in violent acts, and tries to diffuse it. It tries to change the behavior of those at the highest risk and works to change groups that allow violence.

The Cure Violence website says there has been a drop in violence in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Chicago and other areas where the program has been tried.  

Reed also wants to fully fund body cameras for all officers who deal with the public. He also plans to work with Everytown for Gun Safety and MOMS Demand Action for Gun Safety in America to draft an ordinance on gun purchases in the city.

Officials talked about using the Cure Violence program when they allocated $500,000 in the 2019-2020 budget for an anti-violence program. But Reed worries that the city may not use the program, which he says has been proven to be effective wherever it’s been tried. 

“Until it’s done and put in place and up and operational, it’s still speculative,” Reed said.

The Cure Violence website states: “Cure Violence stops the spread of violence by using the methods and strategies associated with disease control – detecting and interrupting conflicts, identifying and treating the highest-risk individuals, and changing social norms, resulting (in) reductions in violence of up to 70 percent.”

Among other things, the program identifies situations such as a prior shooting that may result in violent acts, and tries to diffuse it. It tries to change the behavior of those at the highest risk and works to change groups that allow violence.

The Cure Violence website says there has been a drop in violence in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Chicago and other areas where the program has been tried.  

Reed’s other major goal, body cameras for police officers, saw movement at the Wednesday meeting of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment. Mayor Lyda Krewson, after previously balking at the cost of the cameras, said she would form a committee to look into a program.

Reed talked about his goals in an emotional, 45-minute interview in his second-floor office at City Hall earlier in the week.

“It really makes me mad sometimes,” Reed said. “How many more 7-year-olds have to be shot before we say ‘Enough’s enough?’” 

Reed noted that talk about body cameras started after then-Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown Jr. more than five years ago. Reed noted that the Board of Estimate and Apportionment voted unanimously on Sept. 20, 2017, to move forward with a free trial of 50 body cameras. The board then formed a committee to seek proposals for a permanent solution. 

Since then, nearly 700 days have passed, and nothing has happened, Reed said. 

“I’m absolutely unhappy about the length of time it’s taken to get the body cameras in place,” Reed said. “We are sitting right here today with a 7-year-old kid whose parents have been murdered.”

The cameras create a better environment for officers and improve interactions between law enforcement and the public, Reed said.

Koran Addo, Krewson’s media spokesman, said in an email that a major problem was the price. 

“Body cameras can be a benefit for both our officers and the residents we serve,” Addo said. “And while the city and our police department appreciate all the ways technology aids modern policing, the decision to equip police officers with body cameras carries a significant cost.”

Data collection and storage alone would cost $3 million to $5 million a year, Addo wrote. Hardware would cost $2 million.

“Over five years, the entire program cost is estimated at $20 million,” he said. “A budget is about priorities.”

Reed disputed the figures. He said that the city had a capital budget surplus of more than $20 million over the past budget year. That could pay for this, he said. Lease options covering all costs of storage, equipment and all other costs can cost about $1 million a year, he said.

Information provided by the St. Louis County Police Department indicates that that department pays about the same as Reed’s estimate. 

St. Louis County has a $5,015,804 contract over five years and will get about 700 cameras, according to County Police Media Relations Officer Tracy Panus. It is getting 700 body cameras. The county police force has 960 officers, and most uniformed police will wear the cameras.