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St Louis Major Case Squad


Day 11, US research trip, Believe No One

Believe No One takes Fennimore & Simms to the United States Mid West.
These blogs document the places we visited and people we met during the research trip.

Friday 11th May 2012

St Louis has a European feel

St Louis has a European feel

Believe No One is largely set in the United States, with DCI Kate Simms on a ‘method exchange’ placement, working on cold cases with police in St Louis, Missouri, and Fennimore advising a Sheriff’s Deputy on an abduction-murder in rural Oklahoma. When the two investigations converge, an Interstate Task Force will be set up, and the way we’ve outlined it, St Louis Major Case Squad (MCS) will play a major role, sharing information on murders in Missouri with the Sheriff’s Office in Oklahoma. So, we need to be clear how the Major Case Squad works, and more about the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Team Adam. We’re talking to Bill Baker, who has very recently retired as head of the Major Case Squad, and Team Adam consultant Joe Burgoon, a retired homicide detective (known affectionately as the Godfather of Homicide).

The Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis was formed in 1965 by Chief James Damos and is a multi-departmental unit charged with investigating major crimes within a 13 county jurisdiction in the Two-State area. (St. Louis City, St. Louis County and the City of East St. Louis rarely call out the Major Case Squad. The St. Louis departments have their own resources and East St. Louis (which is just over the state line in Illinois, and a city in its own right) traditionally calls on the resources of the Illinois State Police.) The squad brings together specially trained and highly experienced investigators and averages an 80% clearance rate.

The Mississippi River forms the state boundary between Missouri and Illinois, which is why this part of Missouri is called the ‘Two State’ area. There are additional complications for law enforcement in the Missouri-Illinois Two State area: criminals could potentially flee across one of the bridges over the state line – with St Louis Law Enforcement officers legally powerless to pursue them. The good news is the Major Case Squad is deputized to Illinois, so officers can arrest, follow, chase and catch bad guys across the state line.

A view of East St Louis, Illinois. from across the Mississippi

A view of East St Louis, Illinois. from across the Mississippi

I’m surprised that The Major Case Squad doesn’t receive financial support from the federal government, nor from either of the states of Missouri or Illinois. Every agency that responds to a call-out must cover the full salary of its officers* and quite often a major case will result in long hours of overtime – an added burden on the responding department because manpower is reduced for regular patrol and investigations. To receive help from the St Louis MCS, agencies must request assistance from the MCS within four hours from the time the case was discovered. All cases accepted are treated as priority. A team of 20-30 investigators would be assigned to each case to work under the direction of a Deputy Commander and Deputy Report Officer. MCS usually only stick around an investigation for 5 days, then the original agency carries on – unless they are specially requested to stay on. We are pleased to hear (from a narrative point of view) that they would certainly call in Oklahoma Law Enforcement if they thought they had a linked case.

*Additional funding is provided by donors – civic authorities, for example – as well as a golf tournament and various charities, including Goaties for Charity.

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