ST. LOUIS – There are new calls for action to address rampant gunfire and lawlessness in downtown St. Louis as more than 17,000 visitors from across the U.S. and around the world settle in for the week-long Seek23 Catholic youth conference at America’s Center.

Downtown residents provided FOX 2 with video showing a barrage of gunfire ringing in the New Year right outside their homes in high-rise apartments and condos near N. 10th and Locust streets. Video also shows reckless driving and street parties with no police in sight.

“We were walking out here last night. So, it’s a little jarring, I guess,” said Tyler Mackey, a graduate student from Wisconsin in town for Seek23.

“I feel really sorry for the people who live down here and are trying to keep it a vibrant place to live and a good place to live,” said Erin Carter, who came from Emporia, Kansas, to attend the conference. “It’s my favorite city.”

Reports of New Year’s Eve gunfire were down by more than half from last year (685 to 325) according to St. Louis police, though the incidents near N. 10th and Locust were not reported. Residents cited continued problems with delays in police dispatchers answering 911 calls.

“It’s only a matter of time before some innocent bystander is badly hurt,” said Les Sterman, Citizens for a Greater Downtown St. Louis.

Sterman, a 17-year downtown resident, is the former head of the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, which promotes progress and addresses issues across jurisdictional boundaries in the St. Louis region. He is now considering moving out of downtown. He contends residents proposals for improvements downtown continue to go nowhere at St. Louis City Hall.

Meanwhile, Citizens for a Greater Downtown St. Louis continues to call for a greater police presence, better security at parking lots and garages which are typically empty overnight, and more control over short-term (daily or weekend) apartment/condo rentals, which he believes fuel the lawless behavior spilling onto downtown streets virtually every night.

“Honestly, we just want to make this a great neighborhood: a place where people can come and enjoy themselves without having to fear for their safety,” Sterman said.

“We need law enforcement when you have bullets being fired in city streets, period,” said Alderwoman Cara Spencer (Ward 20).

Spencer’s newly-reconfigured ward—Ward 8—will include much of downtown if she is elected in the spring when the St. Louis Board of Aldermen downsizes from 28 wards to 14.

“We cannot have a successful city, we cannot have a successful region, without a flourishing downtown,” she said. “So, getting serious about the issues and getting serious about the solutions is paramount to all of us.”

Short-term property leases, business licenses, and liquor code enforcement were examples of changes that could have a drastic impact beyond the scope of police and stem the exodus of businesses and residents from downtown.

Though Mayor Tishaura Jones claims much progress in the first year of the Downtown Engagement and Public Safety Initiative, including the retention of Peabody Energy’s corporate headquarters, Spencer believes downtown residents have it right: much more needs to be done.