Last February, investigators said Tennessee-native Janae Edmondson was walking back to her hotel from a volleyball tournament in Downtown St. Louis when a driver ran a yield sign, crashed and pinned her against another car. Edmondson lost both of her legs as a result of the crash.
A man was also shot and killed in February in an “execution-style” murder near the intersection of Tucker Boulevard and Convention Plaza.
In June, a deadly mass shooting broke out at an office party on Washington Avenue. Eighteen-year-old Makao Moore was shot to death during the ordeal.
“I think something needs to be done,” Ken Schlereth, a St. Louis resident, said.
“The crime accelerated in 2014 and it’s been downhill since then,” Matt O’Leary, a member of Citizens for Greater Downtown St. Louis, said.
The new pilot plan is called The Anti-Violence Crime Initiative, which has been fully supported by St. Louis Police Chief Robert Tracy since its launch on July 7. The plan calls for paying $860,000 to the police department for overtime patrols downtown.
Sgt. Charles Wall, a spokesman for the police department, said “The program typically consists of four-hour overtime shifts for one sergeant and six police officers per shift.”
The initiative essentially pays officers about $70 an hour in overtime pay.
“I think it’s a good thing. I think those officers deserve every penny they get and more. They put their lives in their hands every day to protect us,” Ken Schlereth, another St. Louis resident, said.
As of Aug. 18, the police department is still understaffed by more than 200 officers and there have been 19 shootings downtown.
For months, Citizens For Greater Downtown St. Louis has called for better security downtown.
In a statement sent to 5 On Your Side, Michelle Craig, the president and executive director of the St. Louis Police Foundation said:
“At the request of Commissioner Tracy, the St. Louis Police Foundation is proud to support his vision and new pilot initiative called The Anti-Violence Crime Initiative. The Commissioner and his Executive Staff will manage all logistical aspects of this program including the deployment of officers. The Foundation will simply administer the designated funds from donors to the Police Department to pay officers assigned to assist current patrols during this five-month initiative. For 16 years, the Police Foundation’s sole focus has been raising funds for the St. Louis Metropolitan and St. Louis County Police Departments to provide support for their budgets simply cannot.”
The initiative is expected to run through November.
“It’s not enough by itself, but it is a huge component of the solution,” O’Leary said.