HANNIBAL | Gov. Mike Parson met with Hannibal leaders and law enforcement officials to discuss violent crime on Tuesday at Hannibal-LaGrange University.
Parson and Director of Public Safety Sandy Karsten have been traveling around the state to meet with law enforcement, city officials, judges and legislators to come up with ideas to curb the rise of violent crime in Missouri.
“Rather if it's in Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia, Springfield or Hannibal, violent crime is an issue in this state,” Parson said. “We have to do everything we can to make sure that we give law enforcement officers in this state (what they need) to fight violent crime.”
Parson has called lawmakers back into a special legislative session that will begin on Monday, July 27 to address the issue. The cities of Kansas City and St. Louis have seen an uptick of homicides, totaling over 230 combined for the year.
Among the proposals Parson discussed was changing residency requirements for St. Louis police officers, improving the witness protection program and trying juveniles as adults for the unlawful use of a weapon.
“We cannot continue going down this path of innocent people losing their lives,” Parson said. “When we were in Kansas City having a round table discussion, there was a lady who got shot and killed while pushing her baby on a stroller by a 7-Eleven store. This is not what we want to be known for in this state.”
While many of Missouri's violent crimes are concentrated in urban areas, it has also affected rural areas of the state.
Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Shinn said his department has dealt with a business that had multiple handguns burglarized, a deputies patrol car set on fire, a murder case and a high-speed carjacking chase that resulted in a 12-hour manhunt in the past two months.
“Of the arrests made in the murder case and the carjacking, both suspects were in possession of handguns and both suspects were convicted felons that have spent time in (prison),” Shinn said. “We have violent offenders right here in rural Missouri. This type of behavior cannot be tolerated.”
Hannibal Mayor James Hark thanked the governor for coming to Hannibal and commended his efforts in ensuring the safety of Missouri's citizens.
“Make no mistake that violent crime that occurs in the urban areas will transfer out,” Hark said. “It will creep from those areas into the rural areas. So we must work together not just as rural American and not just as urban America, but the entire state of Missouri must work together to (bring) the changes that we need.”
Another factor leading to the rise of violent crime in Missouri is the recent economic woes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Parson said the state needs to get both COVID-19 and violent crime under control to get the economy back on track.
“When people come to look to invest in the state of Missouri, especially if they are going to bring their families with them, is what's the safety of these communities,” Parson said. “Unfortunately, rather if it's St. Louis, Kansas City or whoever is on the news the most reflects on all of Missouri. It has an effect on if businesses stay, if they expand or if they come here.”
The governor has also requested help from federal prosecutors and law enforcement officers.
“I think it's important (to mention) there's been a lot of (stories) about federal officers on the protest line, but these federal officers are here to fight major crime,” Parson said. “That's what we are doing. I think it's just working together everyday to try to put a stop to that.”
Parson also discussed strategies on how to improve the criminal justice system and stop the revolving door of those who get incarcerated again after being released from prison.
“You didn't just start out as a violent criminal most of the time, unless (you're a) serial killer,” Parson said. “Most of the people who are committing these crimes have been (involved in) ongoing criminal activity that started in the lower courts. A lot of them just got that criminal history to go up, but you got to keep stiffening those penalties and going after those people.”