Tracking Enforcement Rates in the City of St. Louis, 2002-2017

This report was produced through the Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice (the “Research Network”), a project of the Data Collaborative for Justice. The Research Network is comprised of researcher-practitioner partnerships in seven jurisdictions committed to producing data, research and scholarly work on misdemeanor enforcement trends. The goal of the Network is to inform policy at the local and state levels as well as a national discourse on the role of misdemeanor enforcement in supporting public safety, trust and confidence in the criminal justice system, and racial equity.

This report examines trends for five types of enforcement activities between 2002 and 2017, including felony, misdemeanor, and municipal arrests, arrests for bench warrants, and summonses-in-lieu of arrest. The report provides raw numbers as well as rates for these activities and also assesses these activities by demographic characteristics (age, gender, race/ethnicity).

Key Findings:

  • Total enforcement rates have declined steadily over the past 16 years. In 2017, there were 26,540 fewer enforcement actions than in 2002, and the enforcement rate declined 55% over the study period.
  • Arrests for felonies and bench warrants were the most common law enforcement actions over most of the study period; however, the bench warrant arrest rate declined steeply after 2013.
  • Blacks were consistently subject to higher rates of enforcement relative to Whites. There was a decline in race differences in enforcement rates over the study period. In 2002, there were almost 5 enforcement actions taken against Blacks for every on enforcement action against Whites.
  • Individuals aged 17 to 20 and 21 to 24 were the most likely to have contact with the police for most of the study period while individuals aged 35 and older had enforcement rates that were consistently lower than those observed for the city as a whole.

Related Press and Media

Arrests on decline for lower-level crimes in St. Louis, with racial gap closing, researchers find

Big drop in African-American arrests in St. Louis over last 15 years, UMSL study shows

New study shows drop in police enforcement in St. Louis City