Ashcroft: Re-fund the police and invest in our communities

Over the last four years, progressive advocates pushing to defund the police have gotten their wish as resources have moved away from policing, toward social work, while making it more difficult for law enforcement to do their job. Along the way, a predictable thing happened: crime went up. 

Today, Missourians, particularly those in St. Louis and Kansas City, must deal with increasing violent and property crime. According to the FBI, St. Louis is now the most dangerous city in America, and Kansas City is not far behind. 

Sadly, the communities most impacted by the “defund” movement are typically minority communities, disproportionately represented in lower-income neighborhoods. These advocates have decided the rights of criminals are more important than the rights of their victims, further hurting already struggling communities. The impact is larger than just public safety. 

A recent study by the University of Toronto’s School of Cities found that over the last four years, foot traffic in St. Louis’s central business district has plummeted more than any of the 66 major North American cities in the study. Turns out the empty offices, shops, and restaurants littering the area “suck the life out of the streets around them,” leading to a significant economic impact, and creating a “doom loop” that perpetuates further blight – and more crime. 

We can no longer afford a justice system that ignores the social and economic impact on our communities, and advocates for the rights of criminals over victims. 

That’s why I’m announcing an aggressive public safety program to address crime, reassure residents that government is here to keep them safe, and arrest the blight and decay facing high crime communities. 

My Red Print proposal has several key elements: 

  • 1,000 New Police: Another casualty of the anti-police agenda is more and more police are retiring and fewer cadets are joining the academy, leaving an untenable gap in recruitment and retention. I will launch an initiative to hire 1,000 more officers, dispatchers, deputies, and other law enforcement personnel to make sure we have the people we need to keep our communities safe. I will also put a preference on military veterans transitioning from the armed forces to civilian life. 
  • State Control: Cities such as St. Louis have mismanaged their police departments, and progressive politicians have lost control of their cities. What they’ve demonstrated is they cannot be trusted to put safety ahead of politics, or competency ahead of dysfunction. It is time for the state to assert control of those departments and protect the people, property and future of these vital Missouri cities, as well as those who serve those departments. 
  • Truth In Sentencing: The laws on the books have no meaning if we refuse to enforce them. Further undercutting public safety by short-circuiting the justice system does nothing to deter crime and further encourages criminality. As governor, I will make sure we enforce the laws on the books. 
  • Invest in State Mental Health Facilities: It’s time we treat mental health issues for what they are, rather than managing the decline of those who are suffering. Allowing mental health and drug abuse to go untreated creates havoc on families and society and increases crime. I want to invest in state mental health facilities that get those with mental health and drug addiction off the streets and into treatment. 

It is not enough to focus on prevention; we also need to focus on rehabilitation, so one-time criminals don’t become career criminals.  We must reduce recidivism with sensible re-entry programs that include transitional housing, continued counseling, skills development, job placement support and mentoring opportunities that support self-sufficiency and employment to reduce the risk of reoffending. 

The crime problem in Missouri is predictable and fixable, and residents expect us to do more to keep them safe. Frankly, the first job of government is to protect its people and their property, and it will be my top priority when I am elected.

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