ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis neighborhood has come up with its own crime-fighting plan. FOX 2 obtained surveillance video from early Monday morning that shows the plan is working.
It was just before 2:00 a.m. A crew of criminals was working a block near Francis Park in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood. They were checking car door handles, looking for something to steal. The new crime initiative kept them from getting very far.
“We didn’t wake up. We didn’t even know about it until the next day,” said Tom Byrne, a resident.
A security camera on his house is part of a network on more than 130 homes and businesses that send alerts to a private-duty police officer hired by the neighborhood. The officer made two arrests in the first few months of the effort and disrupted multiple crimes in progress.
The suspects saw the flashing lights of the officer’s vehicle and left the neighborhood before they were able to check many cars.
“The cameras send automatic alerts to a tablet that’s monitored, in our case, by a private duty officer,” said Tom Scheifler, a resident and neighborhood security chairman. “That officer reviewed this particular alert, saw that it was criminal activity, and responded immediately to this location. So, he kept them from going to the next block and the next block and the next block, which they typically do if there’s nothing to disrupt them.”
That disruption is almost as important as an arrest for Byrne. His car was stolen in November from the exact spot where the suspects were checking door handles Monday morning.
“What you get is a feeling of security. What you get is a feeling that while you sleep, nobody’s going to steal your car or take all the contents out of your car,” Byrne said. “I know (this) is going to work. I can see it working.”
The program helps supplement the city’s understaffed police department. Even if the department had full staffing, this program may prove invaluable to residents.
“With a security camera, we were able to identify and alert our officer on duty in seconds and have that officer respond,” Scheifler said. “The chances of doing that with a regular duty officer are very, very slim. It’s not paying twice for something that the city should provide. It’s a service above and beyond.”
Residents are asked to pay $15 a month. The program covers about 2,700 homes and businesses. It currently operates four days a week. More people need to contribute for it to be seven days a week.
“Other neighborhoods can do the same thing and take advantage of what we’ve learned,” Byrne said.
“I would encourage all of the neighborhoods in St. Louis City to be in contact with our neighborhood association,” Scheifler said.
The group is willing to help with system setup and exploring potential funding sources.