ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis alderman who says he is frustrated with police response to crime in his neighborhood is calling on residents to arm themselves to protect their lives and property.
Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe said Tuesday he is telling his north St. Louis constituents to acquire guns and learn how to use them.
He said that "God-fearing, law-abiding citizens and homeowners" are being preyed upon by criminals, and that police are ineffective, outnumbered or don't care.
Troupe, 72, and a former state representative, said many people don't realize they have a constitutional right to bear arms which they can use to fend off an intruder. He supports Missouri's "conceal and carry" weapons law and is recruiting residents to take the required weapons safety course. Troupe said the wrong people own guns.
"We bought the homes, we're paying the taxes and the police and the emergency personnel's salaries," he said. "Why in the hell can't we get relief from criminals? Why do they have all the power, and we don't and we're paying the damn bills."
He said people are being killed on the impoverished north side, and homes are being broken into and dismantled by scavengers who steal gutters and downspouts or worse, and that school dropouts now on the street are robbing people and snatching purses.
Troupe said when he and residents approached the district police commander last year, he said "there was nothing he could do to protect us and the community ... that he didn't have the manpower, he couldn't do it."
St. Louis police did not immediately return requests for comment. But Police Chief Dan Isom told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he understands Troupe's frustration but doesn't support citizens arming themselves.
Carrying guns, he said, is not a "recipe for a less violent community."
So far this year, St. Louis has had 157 homicides, 33 more than last year at this time.
"My position is simply the police are overtaxed, they are a reactionary force and we need a proactive solution to the problems of our community and our children," Troupe said.
"We haven't addressed children on the front end. Now we've got problems on the back end."
University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld, who is a visiting professor this fall at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said it's an understandable response to the rise in homicides in the city, but it's not likely to be effective.
More guns, he said, only compound crime problems in communities already awash with guns.
"Much of the problem is free and easy access to guns," Rosenfeld said. "This hope that by putting guns in the right hands will have an influence on criminals is a false hope. There's no evidence for that."
Mayor Francis Slay wrote in his blog Tuesday that some of the most violent crimes in Troupe's First Ward are committed with guns stolen from law-abiding citizens.
He said Troupe could do more good urging constituents to cooperate with investigating police officers, lending support for activities for children, and lobbying legislators to increase funding for jobs training and economic development.
Fellow Alderman Lyda Krewson called Troupe's idea a "whacky and ineffective response."
"Most of us are really not equipped to handle the seriousness and responsibility of walking around with a gun," she said. "The end result is more guns on the street."
Krewson, whose husband was shot and killed in front of their home in the tony Central West End neighborhood in 1995, said she doesn't mean to diminish the problem of crime.
She said having a gun "would not have changed the outcome of that evening. I personally don't think guns are the answer to this."