Expanding the use of Field Citations in Missouri


Maya Szilak
Former Resident Senior Fellow, Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties


Violent crime has increased in Missouri, undermining public safety and the state’s economy.

Police departments and jails are understaffed and overextended.

Expanding the use of field citations in lieu of arrest could enhance public safety and economic security, while reducing strain on jails and law enforcement.


While Missouri saw a 6 percent decrease in property crime between 2019 and 2021, violent crime increased by 7 percent. Murders also increased in this period by 25.5 percent, and 689 people were shot and killed, making 2020 the
state’s deadliest year yet for gun violence. St. Louis, the state’s economic engine, has been especially hard hit by the rise in violent crime and stands to lose millions of dollars in business. Indeed, St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield, the state’s major economic hubs, are among the top ten cities with the highest violent crime rates in the United States.

Missouri’s law enforcement agencies likewise are struggling with violent crime. Departments across the state, from small communities to large urban centers, are enduring insufficient staffing and resources. Jails also are grappling with overcrowding, understaffing and underfunding. Predictably, dangerous jail conditions culminated in riots at St. Louis City Justice Center this past year.

Although there are no easy solutions to these problems, expanding the use of field citations to address low-level offenses helps reduce jail crowding, minimize taxpayer costs and enable officers to focus on addressing violent
crime. A field citation is a written order issued by an officer in lieu of custodial arrest, allowing a delayed arraignment. Upon signing a promise to pay a fine or appear in court on a specific date for adjudication of the charge, an offender is released by the officer at the scene.

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