A Tale of Two Realities

By on August 13, 2019

From St. Louis Business Journal:  It’s a common refrain, heard in casual conversation and internet commentary.

“I don’t go downtown except for a Cardinals game,” read one Twitter post, from @Puddychains. “It’s crazy.”

“Don’t go downtown in St. Louis…,” read another from @williej10081181. “Criminals own the streets.”

The reality is far more complicated, a Business Journal examination of crime data found.

While not an outlier among its peers, downtown St. Louis in 2018 had the eighth-highest crime rate of 10 comparable downtowns, the analysis found. And within just the city of St. Louis, downtown counted the most crimes of all neighborhoods last year, police data show. But three city neighborhoods counted more “person crimes” — such as homicide, rape and aggravated assault — than downtown, and 16 neighborhoods counted more homicides alone.

In other words, the most serious violence occurs more frequently in other parts of the city — distinct from the major business and tourist destinations.

“In the case of St. Louis, there are a few neighborhoods that generate very high levels of crime,” said Richard Rosenfeld, criminologist and professor emeritus at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. “They tend not to be downtown neighborhoods.”

Still, a negative perception persists. In a recent poll of Business Journal readers, 43% say they visit downtown, though safety could improve. Twenty-eight percent said they do their best to avoid the area.

Downtown St. Louis already lags some of its peers in its ability to draw new business to the neighborhood. And officials say combating crime — and the negative brand it brings — is critical as it seeks to build on development momentum to bring more jobs and investment.

The ripple effect

When rapper Lamarcus Turner was killed in a triple shooting outside a downtown Hooters, law firm Brown and Crouppen decided it had had enough.

The 2017 slaying occurred near midnight on a Friday, a few blocks from the firm’s office. Days later, managing partner Andy Crouppen said the personal injury firm was considering a move out of downtown.

“It is crime pushing us out — and nothing else,” Crouppen told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Although his firm still had four years left on its lease, Crouppen told the Post-Dispatch he would jump on a different space if it became available.

Two years later, Brown and Crouppen is still downtown. The firm never closed on a deal. But the alarm Crouppen sounded in 2017 still echoes, a reminder of the fear that haunts some businesses downtown.

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