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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)– The Central West End is getting ready for a major expansion, not in shops or restaurants, but security cameras.

And criminals who are camera shy might want to take their chances someplace else.

“We are going to expand our current system of 16 cameras to about 90,” said Jim Whyte, Executive Director of the CWE`s Neighborhood Security Initiative, begun in 2008, and funded through a special business district tax.

The additional cameras will cost about $750,000 and are being paid for by the Washington University Medical Center.

They will be installed in both residential and commercial parts of the neighborhood.

But will anyone be watching what they see?

The answer is no.
“Crimes don`t happen every two minutes here,” Whyte said. “It is so sporadic I don`t think we`d get much of a return monitoring them 24 hours a day.”

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson says he understands the economic challenges of monitoring the cameras 24/7, but he also believes it`s a good idea.

“I believe that cameras that are monitored are much more effective,” Dotson said. “(They offer) the ability to respond in real time. Cameras provide great investigative tools but that is what they are, investigative tools.”

The cameras, along with off-duty police officers on bike patrols, are believed to have reduced crime in the Central West End by 40 percent since 2008.

Still, after-the-fact video images can reveal critical details like facial features and license plate numbers.  One of the existing NSI cameras captured an image of the car driven by the suspects in last summer`s murder of former SLU basketball player Megan Boken.

“Since the beginning of the year (the cameras)  helped in about 16 different crime events, where we have captured images of the offender and  been able to give that to detectives and they have been able to solve crimes with it,” Whyte said.

And while there is no plan to start monitoring the cameras live, Whyte says Washington University has said it would like to see monitoring in the future.

But some, like Rev. Anne Kelsey of Trinity Episcopal Church think it is just as well the cameras are not monitored by the NSI, thanks to all the controversy about the NSA.

“I am just real tentative about so many cameras in general,” she said.

The cameras will start to be put in place over the next few weeks and should all be installed by late fall.

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