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Transit Blamed for Suburban St. Louis Crime

1316834466_9ccbd09338.jpgLast week Freakonomics picked up a story from the Riverfront Times
that connects an uptick in shoplifting, fighting and other crimes in
the St. Louis suburbs to a two-year-old expansion of the city's
MetroLink rail system.

Ask virtually anystore manager at the Saint Louis Galleria about shoplifting, and you'llinvariably get two responses: One, it's out of control; and two, it'sgotten exceedingly worse since August 2006, when MetroLink opened astop just 500 yards from the high-end shopping center.

In thefirst six months of this year, Richmond Heights police made 345 arrestsat the mall. That's nearly double the number of arrests made in all of2005, before MetroLink opened its Shrewsbury line.

More alarming are the numbers of juveniles (kids under the age ofseventeen) arrested at the mall. This year police are on pace to take276 juveniles into custody for shoplifting and other offenses — asevenfold increase over the 39 kids arrested at the Galleria in 2005.

"I know it's not politically correct, but how else do you explainit?" comments a frustrated Galleria store manager.

Not
everyone is as reactionary. A police officer who regularly patrols the
mall, asked to explain the "surge," replied: "Who knows? Perhaps it's
the downturn in the economy. Or maybe it's the need for teens to feel
like they have to wear the latest fashions."

Of
course it could also be that improved transit brings more people in
general, or that authorities are more likely to target those who appear
out of place for engaging in activities that might otherwise go
overlooked. But after establishing its "city problems invade the
'burbs" theme, the story avoids such analysis, relying instead on rote
"he said she said" coverage. To wit:

Richmond Heights police reported arresting three adult males — ages 23,29 and 31 — implicated in a string of thefts earlier this summer.According to Macy's loss-prevention officers, the men would enter thedepartment store, conceal merchandise under their clothes and thenhightail it across the Galleria parking lot to the MetroLink station.By the time Macy's officers realized what had been stolen, the men werealready on a train out of town.

"Just as we don't blame the automobile industry if someone commits acrime with a car, you need to be careful about blaming the mode oftransportation for some of these recent isolated incidents," says[Metro spokeswoman] Dianne Williams.

Photo of St. Louis Galleria: merfam/Flickr

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