Lawmakers returned to Jefferson City on Monday, July 27, for an extraordinary session called by the governor to discuss solutions to Missouri’s violent crime problem. As chairman of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee, I introduced Senate Bill 1, and believe it will achieve the governor’s goal to reduce violence and enhance public safety.
Senate Bill 1 includes all of the provisions requested by the governor during his call for an extra session, it: removes residency requirements for police and public safety officers; certifies juveniles as adults in cases involving weapons; allows certain witness testimony to be admissible in court proceedings; creates the “Pretrial Witness Protection Services Fund”; adds giving weapons to a child to the offense of endangering their welfare; and increases the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for those who unlawfully transfer a weapon to a child without parental consent. Many of the components of this bill mirror legislation that was filed during the regular session; however, due to time constraints caused by the pandemic, these proposals were unable to move through the legislative process.
During the committee hearing on Tuesday for SB 1, over a dozen representatives from law enforcement, public safety, prosecutors’ offices, state departments and police associations testified in support of the legislation. I was glad to welcome Russ Oliver, the prosecuting attorney from Stoddard County, who offered some valuable insights about the challenges rural areas face in dealing with crime. Many of the witnesses, due to shortage of police officers, testified at the hearing supporting the idea of removing residency requirements for police officers, especially for police officers who work in the City of St. Louis. In their opinion, lifting this requirement will enable the city to increase their pool of eligible candidates.
From my perspective, these measures come at a critical point in our history as St. Louis and Kansas City are on pace to beat 2019’s record breaking homicide rates. However, violent crime is not just a city problem; Missouri’s rural communities are also experiencing ever-increasing upticks in violent crime. According to statistics from the FBI, in 2018, Missouri ranked sixth in terms of violent crime in rural areas throughout the country.
We all agree that something must be done to put a stop to the violent crime that our state is experiencing. With that being said, lasting change can’t trickle down from the top, it must come from the ground up, one community at a time. Please contact your local legislators to weigh in on this matter and share your thoughts or concerns. Violent crime is a serious problem, and it will take all of us working together to create significant and sustainable change. From where I stand, all of our law enforcement officers and first responders need, and deserve, our unwavering support.
The Senate committee will reconvene Wednesday, August 5, at 3:30 pm to further discuss and vote on the bill.
It is an honor serving the great people of southeast Missouri. Please call (573) 751-4843 or email email@example.com to share any concerns and ideas you may have.