KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The governor and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce say crime hurts the state’s economy.
According to the Chamber of Commerce’s “Safer Missouri, Stronger Missouri,” Missouri has the fourth-highest rate of gun deaths in the country. Employers around the state have warned the Chamber of Commerce something has to be done to grow the workforce and investments.
The Show-Me State is a top ten state for various undesirable crime measures. Missouri also ranks sixth in violent crime per capita and ninth-highest in property crimes per person.
“I’ve been approached by so many companies that this came to the top of the agenda very quickly,” Missouri Chamber of Commerce President Dan Mehan said. “You try to hire someone, maybe they are from out of state, and the spouse Googles Missouri and what do they find? They find that three of our cities are in the top 12 to 15 violent cities ranked around the country.”
Growing crime statistics are turning people away from the state. Monday, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce released its report, showing business leaders want crime to be addressed.
“I’ve been to I don’t know how many offices, manufacturers, and small businesses can show you the bullet holes,” Mehan said. “I’ve seen shot-out glass windows.”
The chamber and the state are partnering together to reduce crime. The report lists eight recommendations, including hiring more police officers and locking up repeat offenders.
“Our business leaders across the state, more than 70% say that crime is hurting Missouri’s economy,” Mehan said. “Nearly 80% said yes, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce should get involved in this issue.”
“Some of these businesses downtown, St. Louis or Kansas City, some of where these businesses are, what are they going to do?” Gov. Mike Parson said at the Transition Center of Kansas City Monday afternoon. “They are going to go to the outskirts. They will move outside and try to run away from the problem.”
Mehan said the state is doing well coming out of the post-pandemic economically, but the crime statistics are hurting the growth of investment and workforce.
“We’re overtaking other states in things like job creation,” Mehan said. “This public safety thing is a headwind we must address.”
Parson said that the state isn’t going to come into the cities and do away with violent crime; instead, it will partner with them to help combat crime.
“I want everyone to feel safe when they leave their house in the morning, when their kids go to school, when grandma goes to the grocery store, too many talks about bullet holes in people’s houses,” Parson said. “Too many 65 or 70-year-olds saying I’m afraid to go to the store because I’m afraid someone will mistake me for someone else. That kind of mindset we have to stop.”
The plan also asks businesses to hire formerly incarcerated individuals.
“If offenders get out of prison and they don’t have a job, and they don’t have economic opportunity, the likelihood of them re-offending and being back in the system goes up exponentially,” Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, said.
Jonathan Vasquez, from Kansas City, was hired as a carpenter after being released.
“When I was incarcerated, everybody kept telling me us that nobody is going to hire you, nobody wants felons, and that was scary,” Vasquez said. Felons coming out of prison, we do deserve a second chance.”
Here is the list of recommendations from the report:
- Deploy evidence-based and hot-spot approaches to crime reduction.
- Increase and protect tools from supporting policing
- Address substance misuse and mental health
- Reduce recidivism among those on probation or parole
- Improve training and employment opportunities for incarcerated individuals
- Increase public safety staffing
- Improve public perception of law enforcement
- Increase prosecutorial consistency and transparency
Parson said businesses could also help in reducing crime.
“Businesses have a role to play in this; this is their turf which means financially they need to step up and help with law enforcement and help different agencies,” Parson said.
When he started in office, the governor said there were 36,000 incarcerated people in Missouri, and now there are less than 25,000.
“If you don’t get people back into the workforce, you’re going to continue to have that revolving door of people going in and out of prison,” Parson said.
Mehan said some of these recommendations require legislation to be passed in Jefferson City.
The Transition Center of Kansas City is a residential probation center that helps men get back into the community after incarceration. There’s a similar facility in St. Louis.