A network of street cameras designed to curb crime is getting some attention in St. Louis City Hall.
21st Ward alderman Antonio French claims the cameras have reduced violent crime in his north city ward by 80 percent.
“When we had 14 homicides in 2010, what had happened was that this was an area where criminals felt they could operate without fear of being arrested or being held to account,” French said. “The cameras changed that.”
French paid for the cameras by tapping a capital improvement funds each ward has which is typically used for things like paving allies and putting up street lights.
St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom, together with Mayor Francis Slay, inspected the system installed at a police substation on Natural Bridge Ave.
Slay said the cameras are an option the city is considering, if they work.
“We’re here to take a good look at this,” Slay said. “I think an independent view of this is going to be important to make sure that it's effective, because first of all, they’re not cheap, you need to have the resources but it’s worth the money if going to get us the result we want and that is a reduction in crime.”
The city’s police department is facing increased pressure due to a 19 percent spike in gun-related crime, including last week’s broad-daylight murder in the Central West end of former SLU student Megan Boken.
French took to Twitter earlier this week to criticize Mayor Francis Slay for not visiting his ward and considering the option of cameras. French also protested the diversion of police resources away from his ward to wealthier neighborhoods like the Central West End. A compliant French says has since been resolved.
But one of French’s constituents, 21-year-old Gilbert Vasser, says he doesn’t think the cameras will help.
“I don’t think it will reduce crime,” Vasser said. “Because at the end of the day, everybody’s got to eat, whether the camera is there or not. There’s a camera in Walmart, but it’s not going to stop the person from coming in and taking what they want.”
Isom says he is aware of data suggesting cameras do reduce crime. It’s an option the department is considering, along with costs and where the cameras would be located.
A press release issued by the police department on Thursday said the department is making drastic changes including taking officers off their day shifts and moving them to nights.
Follow Adam Allington on Twitter: @aallington