Alderman Antonio French Hopes Cameras Will Catch Criminals in North St. Louis


Bodie puts a fictional camera out of commission
  • Bodie puts a fictional camera out of commission
We've said it several times before, but the way real life in St. Louis mirrors the fictional Baltimore of The Wire is beyond uncanny at times.

Take Alderman Antonio French's plan to install twelve surveillance cameras on high-crime corners throughout his 21st Ward. Anyone who watched the first season of the HBO show knows that a drug dealer with a good arm and a handful of rocks will probably put Big Brother out of business in a hurry.

French, however, says the cameras will be high above the street and enclosed in a protective casing to prevent vandals from destroying them.

That is, if the eyes in the sky ever get installed.

French says he first requested the cameras, to be paid for by the ward's capital improvement fund, in October 2009. He worked with police chief Dan Isom to determine the best locations for surveillance and talked with the appropriate city agencies to set up the system. The request for proposals for contractors to set up the system (estimated cost: $300,000-400,000) will be posted sometime next week.

"The city is a slow-moving machine, sometimes frustratingly slow," French says. "Hopefully, we'll get them installed by the end of the summer. The city is telling me now it won't be until October, which would be a year after I first requested them. It's disappointing because summertime is when the most violence occurs."

French's ward, which includes neighborhoods The Greater Ville, Kingshighway East and Penrose Park, had five shootings in a single weekend earlier this month and he believes cameras could have prevented the violence or at least helped generate leads for police.

"It's the same group of bad guys doing bad things," French says. "We'll advertise the hell out if it, that there's cameras. One of reason people do things is because they think that can get away with it. If they know somebody is watching it's very likely they'll go somewhere else to do drug activity and violence."

It should be noted that Britain, which has more than 300,000 closed-circuit cameras throughout the country, has had mixed results with their monitoring system. A government study published in 2005 found that there was "no long-term reduction in crime levels," after cameras were placed residential areas.

The British, like St. Louis, must have a few characters like Bodie in their midst:

Related Content: "Re: 60-Year-Old-Man Guns Down Teen. (St. Louis Continues to Imitate The Wire)."


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