September’s meeting included presentations from the neighborhood’s security organizations: NSI, Campbell’s Security, and The City’s Finest.
6:45 Meeting Called to order (Vincent Chewning)
FPSE Neighborhood Business
- Infrastructure Committee meeting on 9/24 at 4pm
- Brickline Greenway is requesting feedback via survey monkey
- PSA to fill out your Census forms.
- Nominations for the Board happening in October. If you or somebody you know is interested in running, please let us know by October. The vote will take place in November.
Treasurer’s Report (Steve Chodes)
- No change in the treasurer’s report for the month of August
- Bank statements will start to be included in our reports to ensure bank statements match the treasurer’s report.
Infrastructure Committee Updates
- No update on the Infrastructure Committee.
- Bids are currently underway for the Chouteau basketball court.
Guest Speakers and Discussion
SLMPD Update (Officer Ed Slade)
- Have photos of the vehicle and the subject firing at the bar at Ember
- Have shooting footage of suspect at Tiki Lounge
- An arrest was made in July by the burglary crew. The victim is being interviewed by detectives.
- An arrest was made by the burglary crew at the Chroma building. Their vehicles were seized and towed, and individuals were arrested.
- Crime into the neighborhoods: seeing car break-ins, and catalytic converter thefts. Three have been counted in the last two weeks: Manchester, Wichita, and Chouteau.
- The Captain has been putting out extra overtime cars in areas seeing an increase in crimes. FPSE has seen some of the hours that overtime relative to shots fired calls over the summer. The calls seem to have decreased.
Vince: As we reach the 2019 homicide totals here in September 2020 – what’s driving that and how do we drive it down?
Slade: The violence downtown is incredible. It’s not being glossed over and the manpower that the department puts at is very busy. The gun play and the assaults with firearms is up city-wide and county-wide. It’s going to be a tough one to reign in. Officers are going downtown to fill extra cars and to have a visible force, but it doesn’t always make much of a difference.
Our next three guests are representatives from the three security organizations in the neighborhood. Prior to tonight’s meeting they were given five questions, and their answers in the below roughly match the questions in order:
- What are your obligations to your sponsoring organization/the FPSE neighborhood at large?
- What steps are being taken to address crime in the neighborhood?
- How can residents access each organizations’ incident reports (we receive SLMPD’s twice-monthly already).
- How does each organization integrate with SLMPD and what resources do you share?
- What can residents do to help with crime and safety?
Grove CID Security/Campbell’s (Tom Boldt)
- Primary responsibility is to the Grove CID. That outline is basically around the length of Manchester from Kingshighway to Vandenter. Their responsibility is to patrol those areas at the times that we mutually agree on, on the days that we mutually agree on, and those days and times vary and fluctuate. We try to keep them staggered, so that we don’t develop any kind of pattern, but for the most part, they’re almost exclusively in the evenings. Now when bars and restaurants are closed at 11pm, they’re typically running until 1130 to 111 am at the latest. When things open up again, we expect those times to change a little bit. But for now, that’s basically their schedule.
- Residents have access to everything that we do in terms of our meetings. It’s all published and public record. You have access to that by simply going on our website. If you don’t see what you’re looking for there, you can simply give someone at Park Central a call to make sure that you have whatever you need that we review and cover on a monthly basis.
- We integrate with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department when we have significant incidents. We have an open dialogue with both officers Slade, but we also are in direct contact with the Captain Marks with the Second District. We feel like we have great access, we get good responses whenever we have a question or have a need. They’ve been responsive to the investigations that they’re conducting. W we think we have a good relationship with them.
- I think you’ve got some people on your list this evening who are more involved with what happens in the neighborhood. We’ve certainly got residents in The Grove footprint, and we’re concerned about that as well, but we’re not as well versed on what happens in a neighborhood outside of The Grove Business District.
- I would simply say that I would encourage neighbors to work with officers when an incident occurs to be forthcoming in terms of providing them with information that they have. We hear consistently that there are people that see things but aren’t willing to bring them to the attention of the officer, and that that really serves no one.
Neighborhood Security Initiative (Jim Whyte)
See presentation in PDF Minutes for additional context
- We’re a 501c3 nonprofit organization. We primarily help taxing districts and neighborhood groups respond to crime and work in improving safety through different types of strategies. We do this through the use of cameras and management of supplemental police patrols. We have a position in our office who is an advocate for both the neighborhood and victims of crime, so she goes to court. We attend court hearings and we have found that to be somewhat helpful in seeking favorable outcomes. Oftentimes, our biggest enemy is complacency and not getting involved and judges and people in the courts appreciate when people from the community show up and show interest in how these crimes impact neighborhoods. So we collaborate with residents and community organizations and the police.And our biggest effort is placed on sharing information and trying to get that information into the right hands.
- The Grove camera project was funded through WUMCRC. There’s about 66 cameras that have been put up along Manchester from KingsHighway to Sarah. We picked seven locations along Manchester. And we secured property owner agreements for us to put these cameras in our equipment inside their building. The cameras are on the outsides of the building. And we have inside recording equipment. And each of the sites are independent of one another. And they all have a Charter or Spectrum connection going to it. That’s how we pull video from there and they record at the site. So if one site goes down, the rest of the sites are still recording. It is what we call a passive system, nobody is actually monitoring the cameras. We look at video when we are notified or come into information about a criminal event. We generally require a police report number for us to do a video review. For instance, if someone calls our office, we were able to research it and pull the video and provide it. The cameras are networked into the police department’s real time crime Center, which is down at 19th in our police headquarters. Even there, they’re not monitored. I think there’s over 1,000 cameras that the police department has in their system. What it does do is, if there is a call that comes out in The Grove, or the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood, it does allow the detectives down there at the real-time crime center to pull up cameras that might help give the responding officers a bit of a heads up as they respond to the incident. Interestingly, in preparing for the camera project in The Grove, we found out there’s 40+ cameras along Manchester that belonged to MoDOT and they don’t share their video with the police department or any other entities and their cameras also are not being recorded, nor will they allow anybody to put any equipment on their property there, and they (the state) own Manchester. So that’s one of the reasons why we put our cameras on buildings owned by property owners. Last year, we roughly conducted over 40 reviews of video involving criminal events in The Grove. Those resulted in at least 10 arrests that we’re aware of, and some of these investigations result in outcomes that we’re not aware of, or that we don’t get follow up information from. But you know, these incidents include rapes, assaults, robberies, and even shootings.
- How do we the NSI integrate with the police and what resources do we share? We work, andI feel bad – Ed (Slade) and I don’t interact very often. We exchange emails every now and then, but our primary point of contact is the detective sergeant and their detectives. We will get notified about a criminal event and myself, or Linden Cornell who works in my office, will download the video and we’ll make copies and we’ll get it to the detective bureau or they’ll come out to our office and pick it up. We also share as I said the video feed with the real-time crime center. And what’s interesting about that is is we’ve got a much better feel about where our cameras are and direction of travel and things like that. So it’s more of our backyard. Since we were part of installing all the cameras with the camera integrator, so we know where ]our cameras are looking and we just have a better feel for our system than the detectives do downtown. We put everything into a PowerPoint presentation. And then we download all our video onto disks or thumb drives. And we make plenty of copies for the investigators to keep on hand and enter into evidence. We also share, on occasion, video with the media and Crimestoppers. Crimestoppers do offer money for rewards, and sometimes the NSI will offer additional money for rewards or taxing districts will do that, in an effort to solve some high profile crimes. We have worked with the police and the CID in the past with staffing large events in The Grove, making sure they don’t impact the neighborhood too badly.
General Member: Where does funding come from?
Whyte: That’s a good question. It comes from various sources. And most of it comes from participating taxing districts that support what we’re doing with cameras. I only have a staff of myself and three people that work in our office. We have taxing districts, we started out in the Central West End, and we have expanded a bit to include a taxing district in Debaliviere Place neighborhood.
- I was on NextDoor, and I get, very good information. A resident was talking about several attempts at their Honda Element, where thieves were trying to steal their catalytic converter. And my ears picked up because we’ve had several of these happening in the Central West End as well. I asked the resident to forward the information to me, because I’m interested in the car and the suspects that are involved in it, and I passed it on to the second district, and I provided the information to the police department here, but also St. Louis County Police Department.
- Residents can do a lot to help with crime and safety because police resources are just getting stretched.
- So the first thing is to do is communicate with neighbors. That is huge. You got to talk and you got to get to know your neighbors. And there’s a lot of platforms out there that you can do this: NextDoor, Facebook groups, some streets use a Facebook email group. But you got to stay in touch with city officials and city agencies and neighborhood groups such as yourself and communicate with the police, NSI and TCF. Information is important. And hearing that is extremely important. One of the things that we do is we scrub a lot of different things for information and we can put it in the hands of the right, right people.
- Another thing that residents can do is invest in a simple home security system to keep yourself from becoming victims. These cameras that they have out nowadays have come down in price so much that you can get a couple bundles of them at Home Depot. Ring and Nest are very popular. Put them in important areas such as your front porch where UPS packages get dropped off, garages which get targeted for lawn equipment, and then basement doors which get kicked in quite a bit.
- I’d ask that everybody look out for one another. That’s pretty common sense. And that goes back to communicating with neighbors and sharing information. But there’s ways to do that through holding events to encourage, you know, unity and having bought parties, things like that.
- I also encourage people to report suspicious activity. I get a lot of calls every day from people and in our office and on my cell phone. And the first thing we always ask is “have you called the police?” and a lot of people say no, and quite honestly, I get it. I don’t even like talking to 911 dispatchers and I’m retired police. And there’s other ways to do it, you can use the SLMPD mobile app. I like it, because you can take pictures and attach pictures for derelict vehicles or graffiti or some other suspicious activity that you can share with the police department. and I always say don’t expect anybody else to solve your problems better than you can. So take ownership.
- Our organization oversees patrols in the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood. And what that means is TCF schedules the patrols, our office vets the invoices, we look at the reports TCF officers generate, we make sure that TCF officers are aware of any crime trends that we’re tracking.
- I’m not sure what sort of incident reports you guys would be interested in, but can blast out information to people. The problem with that is, generally, first reports are always wrong.
Steve Chodes: What would it take to add cameras to the greater FPSE area, beyond just Manchester.
- Whyte: Money. These camera systems are extremely – to put up and maintain. We spend $18,000 a year on Charter connection fees, and then software maintenance agreements, and things like that. The agency we’re working with is rolling out a program in which businesses owners can install a camera on their business, in which the video feed goes into the cloud, populates into a mpa and into our system and the SLMPD system. The business pays a simple monthly fee and doesn’t take a lot of capital to install on your business. Private residents are different and we haven’t done that yet. But we do rely on people that have their own cameras. That’s part of our mapping, mapping where our cameras are, we do map people’s private cameras, at least point of contact that we can call somebody and let them know, something happened. We deal with taxing districts, they create an ordinance that defines a geographical area to collect the supplemental property tax for safety and security. And that’s generally how a lot of this is funded, through a supplemental property tax, or in CID’s case, a sales tax that pays for some of it. Years ago, there was talk about a SPD or a special business district down in the FPSE Neighborhood, but I don’t know where that stands.
Vince: Regarding funding, where does the money come from to monitor the neighborhood?
- Whyte: Washington University Medical Center has some funds available for that cost. And they have a little bit of money left over from the original project. So we might be scouting out some locations for cameras, maybe one or two extra locations, one north and one south of Manchester, but not really enough to make a big dent in putting cameras up. We are trying to approach some commercial developments and asking them to put up cameras. It’s surprising to me though, some of these expensive developments don’t put up these camera systems. But that’s a format that we’re trying to do is approach some of these developments, and ask them to contribute so.
The City’s Finest (Rob Betts, owner of The City’s Finest)
- TCF has been in business since 2007 when they deployed police resources in the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood.
- WASHU funds the neighborhood patrols that you have in your neighborhood. They provide us with the annual budget, and our agreement is directly with them. They’ve provided funding in your neighborhood, even before 2007. We patrol on mountain bikes and vehicles and foot patrols and ATVs as well. We use the data that we have provided through Jim’s office, data that we mine, as well with a police department. We base our patrols and stuff off of those.We patrol the Forest Park Southeast residential areas. We patrol on varying dates and times that’s based on time a year. We typically increase patrols in the summertime and warmer months when the kids are out of school whatnot, and then we’ll have some little spikes around the holidays when we see an increase usually in robberies. Our patrols are random. We do some afternoon shifts, evening shifts, and we typically will try to stagger our shifts based on The Grove’s patrols.
- Regarding how residents can access TCF crime reports: Right how our officers write reports, but those reports are kept confidential, shared with our clients, but aren’t typically shared publicly. If information is important that we feel needs to be shared with the public, Jim White’s office (NSI), has access to that. We run a lot of our communication through Jim White’s office, because his office oversees us from the standpoint of some of the administrative stuff to ensure that we’re operating properly within our contractual agreements with WASHU.
- On integrating with the SLMPD: We employ a lot of policemen, over 300, and we’re one of the largest providers of police officers in St. Louis. If they need assistance with a special event within the neighborhood or in other areas of the city or whatnot, we always step up. So we work closely with the SLMPD, and Jim White’s office – it’s kind of a very close intricate operation and it’s worked really well.
- On how TCF is dispatched: I don’t like the word dispatch. I don’t like having my officers being called by the residents and responding to do things, because what happens is the general public deciding what’s an emergency. 911 should be your only number or the non emergency line, calls go to the same place, that keeps it simple and the police department will determine what’s an emergency.
- TCF also prepares crime data report. We have an analysis unit that analyzes data for special requests for Jim’s office, internal use, or other clients to analyze crime. We prepare a report every month in conjunction with NSI that goes over the crime data for the year.
- On what residents can do to help with crime and safety: Invest in home security products; cameras have been the single greatest addition to our ability to be proactive and stop crime. When residents call in and give information, that type of involvement from the residence is really important. It provides Jim’s office a tighter range to investigate.
- We primarily use St. Louis City officers, and we do authorize other jurisdictions.
General Member: How does using St. Louis City Police Department officers work if the City is trapped on officers?
- Rob: They’re moonlighting. They’re working after hours and approved secondary positions. So yes, the city is strapped for officers, but the department may not have a slot for them in the area where they want to put officers. Other neighborhoods, like Forest Park Southeast and Central West End, they’re paying for extra police services, they would like to have extra police if available. And because of the shortage of officers and the tight staff, we’ve incorporated the ability and authorization and contracts to employ officers outside of the city if necessary. We vet them well, and we want to make sure they’re vetted well because there’s some disadvantages to using officers outside of the city. About the regulation of hours: So the police department does have regulations. TFC has designed a model where we deploy officers for only four hours. The SLMPD then adopted policies to prevent officers from working more than 12 hours or maybe even 16 hours in a day. So the police department over the years has taken the lead in restricting the number of officers, and they track that, in addition to my data on officers working for TCF.
7:35 – 7:45 pm Additional Discussion
- Nominations for 2021 FPSENA Board position are next month. If you or somebody you know are interested, please join the meeting next month and self nominate. The only thing that is necessary is dues which is a suggested $10, with a minimum $1.
7:45 PM Adjournment (Vincent Chewning)
You can listen to the recording of this month’s meeting on Anchor and wherever you listen to your podcasts.
You can download this month’s update below.