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How the St. Louis Police Foundation serves the officers who serve us

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - Fox 2 News got an inside look at a St. Louis group credited with saving police officers' lives and bringing criminals to justice who would otherwise go free.

A lot of people have heard of the St. Louis Police Foundation and even donated to it without really knowing what the group does.

The foundation, in its 10th year, has been making St. Louis safer in big ways and doing it quietly; well, not anymore.

After St. Louis Police Sergeant Tom Lake was recently shot in the face, he said he owed his life to the St. Louis Police Foundation.

“I can’t thank them enough,” Lake said.

Few knew why.

The St. Louis Blues Alumni donated $100,000 to the foundation during Winter Classic Festivities. Thousands cheered without really knowing what for. The foundation has spent millions of dollars on everything from high tech to horseback.

At the St. Louis Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center downtown, detectives track criminals from surveillance cameras paid for by the foundation.

Those cameras are networked with 23 fixed-mount LPR (license plate reading) cameras. The St. Louis Police Foundation just paid for 10 mobile LPR cameras, mounted to 10 police vehicles. An alert triggers when the LPRs read a plate connected to a felony crime.

Detectives in the crime center can track the vehicles and relay information to nearby street officers. The more information officers have, the safer they can keep themselves and the public. The approach cuts down on pursuits and has led to 254 arrests with 703 charges filed since June 2015.

The foundation also just paid for hundreds of bullet proof vests for St. Louis City and St. Louis County Police, made to withstand gunfire from assault rifles police are seeing now.

“[St. Louis County Police] Chief Belmar said that has been a God-send, the men and women don’t go out without them right now,” said St. Louis Police Foundation board member and businessman Chris Goodson.

Goodson is a former police board member who helped get the foundation started.

The foundation is also helping to meet the challenge of policing the city jewel that is Forest Park. The foundation pays for the non-human staff of the mounted patrol: the horses, their food, their gear. The foundation buys bicycles for the bike patrol, golf carts needed to work all of the park’s special events, and an ATV to go off-road in pursuit of criminals and ,more importantly, to get to park-goers in need of first aid.

The foundation has gone from raising about $750,000 a year in 2012 to $1.4 million last year.

“It was really word of mouth within the community and within the police department,” Goodson said. “Hey look’ we’re looking to help out the officers to keep them safe, so they can keep us safe.”

Which brings us back to Sgt. Lake. The foundation pays for vehicle upgrades from Chevy Impala Sedans to Chevy Tahoe SUVs. Lake was in a Tahoe when he was shot.

“I sit taller…I feel safer…[the gunman] had to lean over and physically line me up, then he pulled the trigger. It had an ‘up’ trajectory, at an angle, break the glass…if I would have been in an Impala, I think I was dead,” Lake said.

Leaders of St. Louis companies big and small from Anheuser-Busch, World Wide Technology, and Express Scripts, to Fred Weber and Annie Gunn's, make up the foundation board.

Check out StLouisPoliceFoundation.org to donate and find out more about the St. Louis Police Foundation.