The St. Louis Metropolitan Police will have extra personnel in downtown this weekend as the St. Louis Cardinals begin postseason play — a little earlier than usual.
The department usually boosts its numbers around Busch Stadium and fan hotspots if the Cardinals make it to the National League Championship Series. This year, the added manpower will start in the divisional round, driven partially by a shooting at the end of September that left a Cardinals fan in a wheelchair.
"There are millions of fans who come downtown to sporting events, to the restaurants, to the bars, to the cultural attractions and have flawless and perfect experiences," said St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson. "We're starting [expanded patrols] this round for a couple of reasons. One, the shooting. Two, Cubs fans. Cubs fans always add a new layer because they come in big numbers, and they come to celebrate. We want to make sure that everybody, Cubs fans, St. Louisans, has a great experience in our city."
Dotson would not give the exact number of officers that will be in downtown for the playoffs, but said they will be on foot, bike and possibly horseback. Most will be drawn from city-wide units like Mobile Reserve .
"Some are coming from officers that ride in the districts. But as you heard the mayor last week say, we have unlimited overtime," Dotson said. "And so we are filling as many of those spots in the districts, and down here as we can with overtime, so we will have staffing in the neighborhoods, staffing in the districts, and staffing downtown."
A spokesman for the St. Louis Police Officers Association said its members support the use of overtime for the expanded patrols. The union recently criticized the city for promotions that put more officers behind desks rather than in the streets.
Dotson also encouraged visitors to downtown to know the route they will take to and from their car, and to park in lots that have attendants — something that is required during special events. He also urged concealed-carry permit holders to leave their firearms at home.
"We've seen a 50 percent increase in stolen guns from fans and spectators that go to events and leave them in their cars," Dotson said. "Criminals know that, and I don't want your legal gun to fall into the hands of criminals and be used against someone."
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