Crime a top priority for mayoral candidates in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis is preparing to elect a new mayor for the first time since 2001, and candidates agree that reducing crime and revitalizing the city’s north side are top priorities.

Voters are going to the polls Tuesday in the primary election. Seven Democrats, including four members of the Board of Aldermen, are seeking to replace Democrat Francis Slay, who is not seeking a fifth term. Three Republicans are also running, but the Democratic winner will be an overwhelming favorite in the April 4 general election.

FBI statistics for many years have ranked St. Louis among the nation’s most violent cities. Several candidates have called for hiring more police — a task that could prove difficult in a financially struggling city.

Candidates agree that providing more opportunities and upgrading impoverished areas of north St. Louis, where most of the violent crime is occurring, is vital to a turnaround.

Among the victims of recent crime in St. Louis was the wife of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens. In December, Sheena Greitens was in her car in a restaurant parking lot near the family’s home when a suspect opened her door and pointed a gun. She surrendered her laptop computer and cellphone and was unharmed.

Greitens has said St. Louis must find a way to overcome violent crime that affects families, hurts the city’s reputation and damages business.

One of the Democratic candidates survived a horrific crime. Alderwoman Lyda Krewson’s husband was shot to death during a carjacking in front of the family home in 1995. She and her two young children were in the car.

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed has pledged to reduce the city’s total crime rate by 50 percent if elected. Alderman Antonio French has said he wouldn’t seek a second term if he can’t reduce the number of fatal shootings in his first term.

Other Democrats in the race include alderman Jeffrey Boyd, city treasurer Tishaura Jones, school board member Bill Haas, and former alderman Jimmie Matthews.

Republican candidates include utility executive Andrew Jones, Crown Candy Kitchen co-owner Andy Karandzieff and businessman Jim Osher. Running unopposed are Libertarian candidate Robb Cunningham and Green Party candidate Johnathan McFarland.