Our Plan to Reduce and Prevent Violence in Missouri
Xavier was across the yard at a friend’s house with his sisters, getting their hair done for the first day of school. He was going to start the 2nd grade. A bright kid who always found an opportunity to take off his shoes and walk barefoot, Xavier was always with his sisters, always smiling. When it was time to go home, Xavier and his two sisters left through the back door, said bye, and started on the few steps into their backyard. At the other end of the alleyway, two men were arguing. The argument got more and more heated until at least one of the men pulled a gun and fired. The bullet flew down the alley and hit Xavier’s small body, knocking him to the ground and pushing the life out of him. His sisters watched him breathe for the last time. When police arrived, they tried to rush him in their SUV to the hospital. It was too late.
Xavier was one of my campers, and he was one of the many children we have lost to violence in the last year in Missouri.
Missouri is rapidly becoming one of the most violent states in the country. Mothers’ marches against violence have been common in many neighborhoods for decades, but we haven’t acted, and the violence continues to spread.
In 2020, we’ve seen over 140 homicides in Kansas City with about 100 on the Missouri side, over 100 in St. Louis, and a general increase in murder across the state for the last several years.
We need an urgent, coordinated, statewide effort to reduce violence, and our Attorney General must lead the effort.
Our plan was built with community input from neighbors, parents, children, doctors, mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, public defenders, prosecutors, violence experts, public health practitioners, formerly incarcerated individuals, organizers, and many Missourians who want this to end.
Our anti-violence plan is just a piece of the puzzle. It’s an important piece, but one that must be paired with improved opportunities, investment in communities, addressing poverty, mental health access, justice reform, and many other issues that we have ignored for far too long. Those pieces are included here, but the initial focus must be on preventing violence and stabilizing our neighborhoods.
Our prisons are full, our courts are packed, and our children are dying. We need smart, focused, community-centered plans.
Here’s what we’ll do:
- Focused Deterrence: Most violent crime happens in small areas and is conducted by a very small number of people. We will support a focused deterrence model that identifies those individuals most at-risk to commit violent crime, sets clear expectations, offers opportunities before people commit crimes, and ensures that those who still participate in violence are prosecuted. Focused deterrence is the law-enforcement approach to putting violent residents on notice, but it can be paired with important community approaches, including community accountability organizations and community mediators, to drive the message home. That’s why the focused deterrence strategy must be paired with community outreach and with the other strategies below.
By staying focused on reducing and preventing violent crime, we can stabilize neighborhoods and then successfully bring in additional social services.
- Illegal Firearms: Firearms should not be possessed by those who shouldn’t have them. This includes reforming Missouri’s laws to better match those of the federal government to prevent domestic violence.
- Partnerships: The Attorney General’s Office will work with state and federal prosecutors to ensure enough resources go toward a coordinated focused deterrence effort, including outreach before violence occurs. The Attorney General’s Office will also expand these partnerships to include social workers and mental health providers, ideally in conjunction with other state agencies.
- Fund Mental Health: We will advocate for state and local funding of mental health services and further coordination with law enforcement. Investment in mental health services will reduce the burden on our justice system, match treatment with need, and produce better outcomes.
- Fund Substance Abuse Treatment: In Missouri, over 90% of people in prison report some level of substance abuse. Law enforcement officers are overwhelmed with drug calls. We need increased substance abuse services. As Attorney General, I will ensure that any settlement with opioid manufacturers includes support for substance abuse treatment; I won’t repeat what happened with our previous large state settlements. Additionally, I am advocating for Medicaid expansion in Missouri, which will save lives, save rural hospitals, and save our state money while also increasing treatment options for Missourians.
- Community Investment and Involvement: Policing and prosecuting is not enough. We must ensure that communities throughout our state have opportunity and a voice in the process. We will regularly meet with members of the community, nonprofit organizations, and local government officials to help coordinate efforts to invest in our state.
- Witness Protection: Many witnesses do not come forward because they fear for their safety. Until Missouri can demonstrate substantial results in reducing violence, especially in our most impacted neighborhoods, we will need to invest significantly in witness protection. I have personally spoken to crime witnesses who were terrified of coming forward because they had kids. As Attorney General, I will be an advocate in the legislature to ensure we are protecting witnesses and their families.
- Reentry Improvement: Most people who go to prison are eventually released, and we must do a better job preparing folks to return to society. That includes partnering with Probation and Parole, community organizations that support reentry, and other efforts that help keep Missourians from returning to prison.
- Accountability — Civil Rights and Justice Reform: We need accountability in our justice system. That’s why I have proposed starting Missouri’s first Civil Rights Division. We need to build and maintain trust between our public servants and the public, and that means ensuring that our rights are protected. We also need to make important changes in our justice system that include increased statewide prosecutorial coordination, an emphasis on deescalation training, funding our public defender system, utilizing diversion courts including drug courts and veterans courts, offering greater assistance to court administrators, and ensuring that people who are in jail or prison should be there through the implementation of Conviction Review Units.
- Committed Funding of Initiatives: Far too often, local governments fund anti-violence programs — like Cure Violence — for a few years and then defund the program. We must commit to long-term funding of these community programs to see real results. We will regularly meet with and convene community organizations, coordinate efforts, and advocate for full funding of initiatives that improve our communities. The Attorney General’s Office will assist neighborhood-based groups as well. Accountability will be important when selecting these initiatives, and I will advocate for strong procedural safeguards and for those proposals that have proven, consistent results or propose promising new strategies.
- Poverty Reduction: The most crucial long-term aspect of this work is reducing poverty. We must invest state resources into reducing poverty, ensuring access to housing, and creating quality education and job opportunities for every Missourian. As Attorney General, I will also enforce Missouri’s consumer protections to prevent exploitation by predatory lenders, insurance companies, and scammers who keep people stuck in poverty. We need a serious effort to take on poverty.
We don’t need to build more prisons, impose more mandatory minimums, or prosecute more children. We need to invest in our communities. We need to prevent violence. We need a strategy that goes to work immediately, stabilizes our communities, and leaves room for government and partners to address long-term challenges.
It’s beyond time for us to focus on reducing violent crime in Missouri. We cannot afford the same failed leadership anymore. With your help, as Attorney General I will start Missouri’s first coordinated effort to prevent violent crime and save our children.
You can join our effort to make our government work for We the People at EladGross.org.
To see more of our plans, visit www.EladGross.org/solutions.