David Jenkins: Violence is growing problem in St. Louis

Saturday, August 31, 2019

When fans filed into Sikeston Public Schools Stadium last Friday night, they were expecting to see four high school football teams compete in a jamboree in preparation for the upcoming season. Iím sure very few, if anyone, in attendance feared for their life while attending the jamboree, instead laughing with family and friends and eyeing the field while supporting their teams.

Just over two hours north of Sikeston, things were different. In St. Louis, two separate jamborees were impacted by gunshots. And at one held in Soldan, an 8-year-old child was shot and killed.

It used to be sporting events were exempt from a lot of the violence of the outside world. It was a time to escape from the day-to-day grind of life for just a few hours while rooting on your local team. While in rural areas that may still be the case, but in St. Louis times have changed.

So far this summer, at least 13 children have died from gun violence in St. Louis. In one case a two-year-old was shot while standing next to his mother. In another case, a 16-year-old girl was shot and killed in the Roosevelt High School parking lot. Some Sikeston football fans may even remember playing at Roosevelt on a cold November afternoon in 2010 and hearing the sound of gunshots during the game several blocks away.

Last Friday evening, 8-year-old Jurnee Thompson was shot and killed after leaving the football jamboree at Soldan. Her 16-year-old cousin and his best friend were shot too as was a 64-year-old woman at a restaurant near the school. According to media reports, the scrimmage ended in a series of fights near the restaurant.

The same night, at Parkway North High School, a shot was fired during a skirmish at a jamboree. The event was cancelled about halfway through because of numerous disturbances and fights but at least nobody was hurt.

It is senseless that people donít feel safe going to a high school football game in St. Louis but these are the times we live in. St. Louis has become known as one of the most dangerous cities in the country and with the death of 13 children this summer, that reputation will only worsen.

The St. Louis mayor is pushing for an emergency launch of a crime prevention program and rewards are being offered for tips in the killings. The mayor is even asking for the Missouri State Highway Patrol to help curb the violence.

St. Louis is no longer a place I look forward to visiting. I have walked the streets in downtown St. Louis at night with no fear. I have attended football and basketball games in St. Louis and never felt like I wasnít safe. But can anyone have that feeling anymore? I mean a person was even grazed by a bullet at Busch Stadium last year during a Cardinal game.

St. Louis is earning the reputation as a dangerous city and itís a shame. It used to be a treat to go to St. Louis and take in a game and some of the sights. But now I donít even think about St. Louis as an option to travel to. When local high school teams schedule teams in St. Louis, I know I wonít be going unless there is no way out of it.

Hopefully, leaders in St. Louis can get a handle on the violence but it seems at this point that wonít be the case. The violence only continues to get worse and when you canít even go to a high school football game without being safe, it is past the breaking point.

David Jenkins is the co-editor of the Standard Democrat.

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