ST. LOUIS – It was an unforeseen side effect of the COVID lockdowns in the early part of the pandemic. With people and businesses forced to move out, lawlessness moved in.

Gunfire and reckless driving became rampant downtown and in August 2020 – tragedy.

St. Louis police say 17-year-old Sierra Ward of De Soto was killed when a 25-year-old was speeding, ran a red light at Washington Avenue, and crashed into the pick-up truck Ward was riding in.

Less than three weeks later, police say reckless driving at a closed-down downtown parking garage led to the death of 17-year-old William Jordan of north St. Louis County. Jordan struck his head on a crossbeam while standing up through the vehicle’s sunroof.

Residents called for more police. At the time, city responded with concrete traffic barriers and downtown street closures in an effort to curb speeding by cutting traffic flow.

One year later, new Mayor Tishaura Jones announced a new safety initiative.

“We’ll be taking immediate action to address downtown safety in the short term,” she said.

The city forced the closure of a downtown nightclub involved in multiple violent episodes, but with no long-term commitment of additional police resources, the lawlessness continued.

A barrage of gunfire had Cardinals fans running for cover after a ballgame last May.

“When it comes to downtown safety, failure is not an option,” said Bill DeWitt III, Cardinals team president. “We have to fix this. We will fix this.”

In July, police counted more than 100 bullet casings from a shootout in the street in the shadow of the St. Louis Wheel. Downtown resident Dr. Severin McCoy found a bullet on his couch.

“It’s just not monitored, especially late at night,” he said. “Especially on the weekends.”

Last month brought daytime looting of scrap metal and wiring from the vacant but historic former Famous Barr building. Video shows a man dragging a stolen load across downtown at lunchtime, unworried about being spotted by police.

There’s also been more gunfire and more bullets into downtown buildings, and more reckless driving.

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

Six weeks after Sterman’s words, 17-year-old Janae Edmondson lost her legs in a crash caused by a reckless driver.

The issues go beyond downtown, however. Three of the top five worst homicide rates in city history have come in each of the past three years, and police are now battling a new crime trend in south St. Louis, as groups of juvenile carjackers and armed robbers are striking in bunches, just minutes apart.