The city of St. Louis consisting of 318,000 inhabitants has witnessed 159 cases of homicide in 2014, which is 33% more than in the previous year. And despite the decreasing trend of murder rates in the United States in 2015, the related numbers in St. Louis have jumped putting it on the short list of the cities with prevalence of violent crime remaining just little lower than that of crack-driven peaks of the 1990s. Some of the most deadly drug-dealers’ spots are located in the districts near children facilities. The majority of committed offenses are associated with gun violence.
According to criminologist Rosenfeld, there are eight specific low-income minority neighborhoods that concentrate increase in murders. Several issues causing the said problem call for a particular attention. First of all, in St. Louise, the firearms are easily accessible, their proliferation is beyond control, and the illegal possession is met with permissive legal response entailing poor consequences for the offender. Namely, a person arrested for owning a weapon illegally but not caught using it is not subject to criminal charges. He/she is usually sentenced to probation, but not jail. Secondly, the low degree of cooperation between the different law-enforcement agencies experiencing a shortage of manpower in the city results in their incapacity to ensure constant control in problematic neighborhoods.
The so-called “Ferguson effect” is defined by the city officials as the main source of the increase in violence due to the caused diversion of police attention to protests. However, the deeper analysis reveals that the mentioned effect has only triggered the higher level of racial distrust in the deeply segregated half African-American city of St. Louis. There are also profound social roots of the problem including poverty, youth culture, addiction, and unemployment. They provide for the use of firearms becoming a particularly advantageous way to resolve conflicts.
Aside from hiring more minority officers, the approaches proposed to defy the rise of violent behavior that the local police authorities hope to implement have been borrowed from the practices of other cities. They include tracking the most violent individuals to prosecute them with special diligence for minor offenses and identifying the said people to confront them through police scrutiny and tenacious prosecution. However, Clark, the president for St. Louise community outreach, has reasonably pointed out that the police could not solely fill the void of social aid, i.e. the lack of centers with drug treatment and recreation for children. And while the officials look to the other communities for ideas, they should be warned from vainly seeking panacea for crime outside the city of St. Louise (Echholm n.p.).
Establishing a single control to develop a strategy to combat illicit trafficking of arms
The social exposure associated with the increase in illicit trafficking of arms has added to the requirements for the quality of law enforcement agencies that are obliged to counteract this criminal phenomenon. The strategy and measures to address the problem should be expressed not only in narrowing of the opportunities for criminal activities but also in eliminating the shortcomings of the criminal justice system. Creating a single control will not only allow avoiding departmental disunity. It will enable addressing the complex issues associated with illegal weapons more systematically.
The peculiarity of modern times is associated with the public recognition of inalienable rights and freedoms as the supreme value of society. However, in reality, the commonplace steady increase in unemployment among the economically active population, meager salaries and pensions, job losses, and the lack of opportunities for law-abiding citizens to work honestly, educate their children on high moral principles, and maintain normal interpersonal relationships has become the trend. It is complemented by a growing global competition and a decline in expectations for upward social mobility. In such cases, criminal manifestations associated with the illegal proliferation of guns do not always entail a condemnation from the inner circle of the offender's relatives and friends. It is rather a source of justification for the criminal activities. And the latter should be prevented from being either available or profitable (Laub and Sampson 319).
In the poor economic situation, people may often sell weapons out of despair. Based on the causes and conditions that contribute to the frequency of crime occurrence, preventive measures should primarily be focused on the implementation of a single control over the demand for firearms. The competent authorities must develop strategies to supervise this demand coming from law-abiding segment of the population, exclude the possibility of its illegal satisfaction, prevent the weapons from entering into uncontrolled circulation and withdraw them from illegal trafficking.
One can also create a special database gathering the characteristic features, including personality traits, of individuals selling firearms illegally. The availability of this type of information will improve the operational control over both the movement of weapons and the people involved in illicit trafficking. Furthermore, holding a person found guilty of possessing illegal firearm criminally liable would serve as a factor in the prevention of other crimes, in which weapons are used as a means to achieve different, higher criminal goals. Thus, the enhancement of provisions of criminal law, on the one hand, would become a form of socio-political and legal assessment of growing rates of violent crimes. On the other hand, it would stand as a tool of preventing selfish ends of crimes associated with illegal firearms.
Making emphasis on improving the socio-economic situation in the city
The realization of adult crime is majorly dependent on criminal opportunity.
To prevent criminal propensities from translating into actions, it is important to create the environment favorable to strong work and family ties providing for more structured routine activities and less free time, i.e. to strengthen social bonds. Improving the opportunities for the appropriate development of children, especially in the ones in disadvantaged racial and economic positions is critical (Laub and Sampson 318-320). However, the factors that affect the course of adult life should be considered earnestly.
Among the major factors affecting the increase in crimes related to surging gun violence are the negative effects of the socio-economic situation in St. Louis. They give rise to increased demand for weapons and the possibility of its illegal satisfaction. It should be noted that the positive economic factors have natural preventive properties. The economic development will contribute to the prosperity of the social infrastructure, mitigate the social consequences of unemployment, increase the welfare of the people, and provide opportunities to meet their material, spiritual, and cultural needs. In turn, this will result in a reduction of the psychological tensions in the problematic neighborhoods.
Developing the community's cognitive landscape
The acts of crime are not exhausted by purely economic motives. The community of St. Louis must improve in terms of its ecologically structured perceptions and tolerances. The attention should thereby be paid to the condition of mechanisms that shape the cultural patterns of learning. Their underdevelopment results in increasingly intermittent relationships between the groups with different racial/class backgrounds (Sampson and Wilson 52). The inequalities in the community undermine social organization and control of crime by the means of rising social isolation and ecological concentration of the truly disadvantaged (Sampson and Wilson 39). They impede communication and abstract the quest for common values fostering cultural diversity (Sampson and Wilson 49).
The way to address the issue is by reducing structural inequality contributing to unwanted practices and their transmission. The social policies of the city including marketing campaigns need to change and to focus on prevention and development of quality of social characteristics of various collectives within the community rather than blame the "kinds of people". Standards and expectations of conduct should exclude drugs, disorder, and crime from the concept of an everyday life of the community (Sampson and Wilson 50-54).
Also, it is important to arrange the leisure activities of the population in the way that will decrease its criminal propensities, especially in young people. The ongoing negative trends in society have significantly contributed to the inflow of minors in criminal organizations. They become "pawns" in the hands of adult criminals and various adventurers, who, pursuing their interests, provoke young people to commit crimes. Therefore, prevention of crimes among minors should be a focus of all government institutions in the city including law enforcement. It is necessary to identify the youth involved in any form of criminal manifestations and help it in finding a more positive way to meet life its expectations. Solving this and many other related issues will require considerable investments and spending. However, the material and moral damage caused to the city by illicit arms circulation is much weightier.