- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri State Highway Patrol has turned down a request for its troopers to help police in downtown St. Louis, the patrol’s leader told a Senate committee Monday.

Patrol Col. Ron Replogle said his agency doesn’t have the funding to use its officers to help patrol the city streets. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson had asked the patrol for 10-12 officers who could work alongside city police as part of a response to a recent increase in violent crime.

Replogle told members of the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee that he looked at the possibility of providing eight officers to work from now through summer. But he decided against it because of finances.

Dotson said he had hoped the Highway Patrol “would be able to get around budget issues” and find a way to help the city.

“It would have been a great opportunity for their agency and the officers of the Metropolitan Police Department to work side by side,” he said in a written statement released after the committee met.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, a Columbia Republican who is running for attorney general, said St. Louis police need to address their own crime problems.

“The answer is to find a real solution, not to have the Highway Patrol be your Band-Aid and have the people of the state of Missouri pay for what is otherwise a lack of leadership in law enforcement in the city of St. Louis,” Schaefer said.

The city recorded 159 homicides in 2014, the highest total since 2008, and the crime surge has continued into 2015.

Many of the shootings are in a relative few crime-ridden areas of north St. Louis, but downtown has seen a spike in violence, too. Last month, 19-year-old college student Bobby Christman was killed during an apparent robbery outside a downtown nightclub. Two people are in custody in Illinois on other charges, but have not been charged in the killing.

St. Louis is fighting back by adding 160 new officers, but they may not be on the street for two years by the time they are fully trained. Dotson said he’s come up with new ideas, too: increased use of officers on horseback, more “hot-spot” policing in high-crime areas, including downtown.

He said having patrol officers walk alongside city police downtown would send a message to would-be criminals, and it would make the community feel safer.

The idea was not without precedent. The patrol sometimes works in communities where disasters, such as tornadoes, occur. It also aided in anti-crime efforts in both Kansas City and St. Louis in the mid-1990s.

___

Salter reported from St. Louis. Associated Press writer Alan Scher Zagier contributed to this report from St. Louis.


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