Over the years, it seems like we’ve lost local level reporting on a national scale.  I’m frequently reminded of this when I see a headline like this one.  “Mayor of St. Louis Suburb Charged In Election Fraud Case.”  If you aren’t from St. Louis, you probably don’t realize that there is a St. Louis City and St. Louis County.  And, you also probably aren’t aware that there are something like 90 or more municipalities in the county alone.  What you do have, however, is a link between St. Louis and crime.  It’s not a great look; St. Louis needs to be known for something other than crime.

Quibble with the official crime statistics

According to Wikipedia, the city of St. Louis has been ranked in the top 10 cities for most dangerous cities in America at least since 1994.  From 1994 to 2012, we managed to be in one of the top 3 spots an impressive 12 times.  It’s pretty easy to pick at the statistics…St. Louis City crime statistics usually don’t include the metro area.   It’s the same problem with population.  If you look at a city by city basis, St. Louis is very small.  If you look at the top 100 cities for example, some will cite the city only, like on this page.  Other places take the combined City and County statistics and we move from 65th all the way up to 20th.

The Rampant Crime Perception Hurts The Entire Region

As a real estate broker in St. Louis, I’m often asked by clients moving here about the crime.  After all, we’re in the dangerous rankings every year.  The truth is, like pretty much every city in the country, there are spots that are iffy.  However, the region is pretty safe for the most part and the quality of life and cost of living are pretty exceptional.

Crime Maps Show Interesting Things

A couple of years ago I looked at a crime map near my home in Affton.  Affton is a pretty safe place to live; I’ve lived here for 30 years of my life.  Imagine my shock when I saw a small red area close to the Shrewsbury Wal Mart.  If you just looked at this map, you would think I was living close to one of the most dangerous places in the city.  Turns out, this particular map includes all reports of theft, and while the crime is still a serious one, it’s not exactly murder.

The Ability To Lure Business

Those of us who have had the ability to travel around the United States can see where St. Louis falls short.  If we are in competition with Denver, Chicago, Miami for a new corporate headquarters of a fortune 500 company, we are at a disadvantage.  Look at Denver.  In the past 8 years, the population has increased 388,000 people in the metro area, or 48,000 a year.  Why?  How about the beautiful Rocky Mountains to the west, a world class airport, world class skiing, and relatively low crime as reasons for the moves?  If we were offered the chance to put together a tax incentive package to lure business here, we get two things for certain.

  1. The cry from many about tax advantages to billionaire corporations

 

  1. Some sort of argument between the city and county government about who is going to foot the bill.

We’re already at a disadvantage geographically. Even though St. Louis is pretty much equidistant from the coasts, we seldom see St. Louis as a transportation hub.  FedEx chose Memphis, TN for their super hub.  And, many companies looking at the Midwest are naturally drawn to Chicago.

What Should St. Louis Be Known For

Before you can solve any social issue by government, it sure seems like you need a broad tax base to have the money for these projects.  A shrinking tax base combined with larger expenditures on and around local government backed services is surely a recipe for disaster.  Therefore, to try and help the most people, I believe St. Louis must make an effort to be the most job friendly region in the country.  How can we do this?  Well, for one, stop shooting ourselves in the foot.  When someone nationally writes about a murder in St. Louis that ends up being in one of the 90 different municipalities, mention that.  If someone is murdered in Eureka, that is at least 25 miles west of St. Louis City.  Don’t paint the City with such a broad brush

Similarly, we recently saw the St. Louis County Executive resign after a federal investigation revealed a “pay to play” scheme.   That doesn’t make St. Louis look great, but it’s also not in the City of St. Louis at all.  Why should their name be pulled through the mud nationally?  We need more community push back when people with influence make overly broad generalizations, especially when it comes to crime.  That isn’t to say that we should act like crime isn’t an issue.  It most certainly is, but it isn’t the best narrative to attract investment from those businesses that operate around the world.