by Sam Levin
It's been a pretty violent start of the year in the City of St. Louis, with at least sixteen homicides so far. And Alderman Antonio French says he is now taking specific actions to try and prevent crime in his 21st Ward.
On Saturday, more than one hundred north St. Louis residents met with police and other officials to discuss the problem of violence.
And French tells Daily RFT that he is pushing forward with one measure in his neighborhoods: a larger surveillance network.
"We have the largest in the city," French tells us of his surveillance cameras. "And we'll be expanding."
More cameras means less crime, he says.
French emphasizes that it's just one idea and that crime reduction requires long-term planning and development and meaningful input from stakeholders in the community.
"It's one of many tools," he says of security cameras. "It acts as a deterrent and it provides witnesses we've never had before."
French says he has been working on expanding the camera network for several years. And in the summer of 2011, he said that crime in the 21st Ward was down significantly, in part because of the cameras he installed.
Due to recent redistricting, he tells us that the College Hill neighborhood is now part of the 21st Ward and needs better security camera coverage.
And he recently signed paperwork to get three additional cameras installed there, French says. "We are really targeting [the crime]."
In addition to cameras, he says that "neighborhood organizing" is key. "Block-by-block...we are working with police to identify those few individuals causing all the trouble."
He adds, "Crime is a symptom of a problem...and so what we want to do is revitalize and rebuild this community. Then, the crime will take care of itself."
Here's a video of French discussing the surveillance network in his ward.