Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Residents, Police Team Up to Fight Crime

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Residents, Police Team Up to Fight Crime

Article excerpt

THE RESIDENTS of Hamilton Heights, in the city's West End, were fed up.

They wanted to do something to fight crime in their neighborhood. They'd seen a successful anti-crime effort in the Soulard neighborhood and wanted to duplicate it.

The Soulard Restoration Group has been taking aggressive steps against crime. The group there has formed a mobile patrol, made up of more than 100 residents concerned by crime in their neighborhood. The group works closely with police; volunteers never try to make arrests or stop crimes themselves. But they serve as "eyes and ears" for the police.

Volunteers who patrol at night carry cellular phones. When they see something suspicious, they call the police department. The program gets high praise from many areas.

The Hamilton Heights residents thought such a program might work for them. But after discussing it, "folks decided there were too many seniors who would be volunteers and too many problems with them going out at night and maybe being targeted," said Julius Fuse, who works as housing coordinator with the St. Louis Association of Community Organizations.

After more thought and meetings among SLACO, several neighborhood associations and Capt. David Heath of the police department, the idea of the Police-Community Contact Program was born. The program is a coordinated system to get information from residents who know what's going on in their blocks to the police - and vice versa.

Why the need for a program at all?

"In some neighborhoods, people are a little bit apprehensive about telling the police about what's going on out of fear of reprisals," Fuse said. Indeed, it's probably the reason most people don't want to get involved when they witness a crime. Fear of retaliation is often a major stumbling block. Too often, people don't feel comfortable reporting information, believing 911 or hot-line numbers to be too impersonal and finding it difficult to follow up on information that's been given.

The new program - being set up in the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth police districts - is designed to combat that. Under the program, people are volunteering to be confidential police contacts. …

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