(The Center Square) – Missouri’s crime rate is affecting the state’s economic competitiveness and public safety must be a legislative priority, according to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
A poll conducted by the Chamber found 60% of businesses identified public safety and crime as a growing concern and 24% stated it was their top concern.
“To see public safety as a top 10 concern of our business community is alarming,” Daniel Mehan, president and chief executive officer of the Missouri Chamber, said in a statement announcing the research last week. “The time for action is now.”
The survey found business leaders overwhelmingly favor increasing funding for law enforcement staffing (94%) and funding hot-spot policing in high-crime areas (92%). They also strongly support increasing job training for those in prison (91%) and increasing funding for mental health and substance abuse (90%). Increasing prosecutorial consistency and transparency was favored by 87% of respondents.
The Chamber announced it would advocate for seven recommendations to be implemented through various bills:
- deploy evidence-based and hot-spot approaches to crime reduction;
- increase and protect tools to support policing;
- address substance misuse and mental health;
- reduce recidivism;
- improve training and employment opportunities for incarcerated individuals;
- increase public safety staffing;
- increase prosecutorial consistency and transparency.
“While the response to crime has become highly political and divisive, we are focused on ideas that can be passed at a statewide level and with united support from both sides of the aisle,” Mehan said. “Public safety is a top priority for the Missouri Chamber because it impacts businesses everywhere, across nearly every Missouri community.”
Last June, Mehan and Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson visited St. Louis to announce the publication of a 32-page report, “Safer Missouri, Stronger Missouri.” The document stated Missouri’s violent crime rate increased 8.6% between 2019 and 2020, compared to the national increase of 4.6%. Missouri ranked sixth in violent crimes per capita, ninth in property crimes per person and fourth in gun deaths.
Missouri’s business leaders have a mixed outlook for 2023, according to Chamber research. The state’s workforce was rated as the top concern by 38% of respondents.
The Chamber said it would lobby for reimbursement programs allowing employers to help employees complete short-term credentialing and certifications. It also will advocate for more funding to address the lack of child care. The survey found 78% of business leaders believe the cost and availability of child care is keeping a significant number of Missourians out of the workforce.
“When meeting with businesses, I hear over and over, we have the jobs but we just can’t find the people to fill them,” Mehan said. “Ramping up programs that can quickly and efficiently train workers for high-demand fields is a must.”
The report stated 79% of businesses expect workforces to “stay about the same” or “increase moderately.” Leaders of 57% of businesses expect to make minor investments in their companies and 26% expect to make major investments.