Q: What is the primary goal/purpose of the security initiative?
Our primary goal is to make the St Louis Hills neighborhood safe for residents, businesses and visitors.
The primary purpose is to disrupt and deter criminal activity. Arrests are a “bonus”. By disrupting criminal activity as soon as it starts, we can stop the criminals from continuing block-to-block for as long as they want and taking whatever they can. By consistently disrupting criminal activity we can deter them from returning in the future.
Q: What is the service area for the security initiative?
Chippewa at River des Peres, east to Hampton
Hampton south to Jamieson
Jamieson / River des Peres to Chippewa
This is the map of the service area.
Q: Why combine security cameras with a private-duty officer?
Studies have shown, and our experience confirms, security cameras alone do very little, if anything, to deter criminal activity in neighborhoods. So the key is to also have an immediate response when criminal activity is identified, to disrupt the activity from continuing and deter future activity. We use a private-duty (aka secondary-duty) police officer because we know the City 911 system is often unable to answer calls quickly and the City police department is often unable to respond quickly.
Q: Is it legal for police officers to work private-duty for the neighborhood?
Yes. City policy (Regulation No 97) allows officers to work private duty..
Q: How do we arrange for the private-duty officers that are working for our neighborhood?
The St Louis Hills Neighborhood Association contracts with Campell Security Group to provide the officers.
Q: Can the private-duty officer make arrests?
Yes. The officer is in uniform and carries their department issued equipment including weapons and radio. They can make arrests and, when appropriate, call for backup from regular duty officers.
Q: Is the private-duty officer in a vehicle or on foot?
The officer patrols in a high-visibility vehicle that has “security” markings and flashing blue lights.
Q: What are the rules for the private-duty officer?
The officer must follow the same policies as when working regular duty, including safety limitations for pursuing suspects.
Q: Can residents contact the private-duty officer directly?
Not currently. It may be possible in the future, but we’ll need a way to ensure the access is limited to residents and does not adversely affect the goal and purpose of the security initiative.
Q: How does the officer get the automatic alerts from the security cameras?
The officer carries a tablet (iPad) that allows them to see the automatic alerts from cameras throughout the neighborhood. Using the tablet, they can monitor the alerts in real-time and immediately respond when they see something suspicious or criminal.
Q: What are the days and hours of the security initiative?
The number of days each week vary depending on the voluntary contributions by residents and businesses.
The hours vary each shift between 10pm and 6am.
Q: Who owns the security cameras that send the automatic alerts?
Each camera has been bought by a neighborhood resident or business. They own and operate the camera. The camera is configured to send alerts automatically to the tablet so the camera owner does not have to monitor the camera or take any action.
Q: Where are the cameras located?
The cameras are located on private property (houses, apartments, buildings) and point at public streets, alleys and parking lots.
Q: What privacy measures are in place?
Privacy concerns have been addressed as follows:
- Only the camera owner has access to the live video for their camera.
- Only the camera owner has access to the recorded video that is stored on the camera.
- The camera ownder controls the schedule for sending automatic alerts to the officer (typically 10pm-6am)
- The camera owner can create “privacy masks” (aka black boxes) to protect the privacy of nearby neighbors that are in the field of view for the camera. We encourage all camera owners to show neighbors the view from the camera and address any concerns.
- The camera owner controls whether audio is recorded along with the video.
- The video clips sent to the officer are automatically deleted after 15 days unless the alert has been categorized by the officer as unusual, suspicious, or criminal.
Q: Who is paying for the officer and how much does it cost?
We pay $80 per hour for the officer and vehicle. For 2023, the cost is funded by voluntary contributions by neighborhood residents and businesses. You can make a contribution for 2023 here. For 2024 and beyond, there is a special taxing district proposed which would cover the full cost of the security initiative.
Q: Why should we pay for this (we already pay for regular duty police)?
The security initiative is a service to supplement the regular-duty police. Even if we had nightly patrols by regular-duty police, they are rarely in the right place at the right time to disrupt the criminal activity. So a donation to the security initiative is not “paying twice” for police services. It is contributing for an additional service beyond what the City provides for the taxes we pay.
Q: But doesn’t the City police have a Real Time Crime Center with access to hundreds of cameras throughout the city?
Yes. However, the RTCC does not locate their cameras in residential areas. They are on main streets like Hampton, Chippewa, Gravois, and Kingshighway. And they do not have personnel constantly watching live or recorded video. Their focus is on alerts from license plate readers, assisting officers on patrol with live video as requested, and retrieving clips for evidence after a crime. All good things to do, but very little overlap with our security initiative.
Q: Is there any information available about the results of the security initiative?
Yes. Monthly reports are available here.
Q: How do we know the officer is actually patrolling the neighborhood and reviewing the automatic alerts?
We use GPS tracking to confirm the officer is consistently patrolling the entire neighborhood and the software for reviewing the alerts tracks the time the alert was received and the time the officer reviewed the alert. In addition, each alert reviewed by the officer is assigned a category by the officer (false, unremarkable, unusual, suspicious, criminal), Using all this data, we can ensure the neighborhood is getting what we’ve paid for.
Q: How many cameras should our neighborhood have?
The goal is to have at least one camera per block and one per alley. Having two or three cameras on a block can be very helpful.
Q: How much do cameras cost?
The typical camera is about $160. And each camera should have a data card which costs about $20. There is no cost to operate the camera other than a nominal amount of electricity and internet usage. They are purchased on Amazon or directly from the camera manufacturer.
Q: How do I know if my block has a camera and how do I get one?
Contact Tom Scheifler at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if your block has a camera and for guidance on getting a camera at your location.
Q: Is anyone in our neighborhood profiting from the security initiative?
No. St Louis Hills resident and Chairperson for the Safety Committee, Tom Scheifler, has volunteered his time to get the project up and running. He also wrote the AwareNet software that consolidates the automatic alerts from the security cameras and allows the private-duty officer to review the alerts. The software is available to all City neighborhoods “at cost” (which is about $1.50 per camera per month).
Q: Does this push crime to other neighborhoods?
The short answer is, probably yes. Criminals don’t stop committing crimes just because one neighborhood is more risky for them. However, consider that putting a home security sign on your front lawn is basically doing the same thing. That sign says “don’t stop at my house”. It doesn’t say “don’t stop at my neighbor’s house”. The security initiative is like a home security system for the entire neighborhood. Also, we are offering to assist other City neighborhoods to explore and implement a security initiative similar to ours. Neighborhoods have been doing traditional neighborhood watch programs for decades. Our new and improved neighborhood watch is the same idea but more effective.
Q: Has there been any news coverage about the security initiative?
- St. Louis Hills Man Designs Security App to Combat Crime
- Residents link security videos to combat crime in their neighborhood
- St. Louis Hills residents take neighborhood security into their own hands
- St. Louis neighborhood hires private security to combat crime
- St. Louis Hills residents fund security, cameras to deter crime
- St. Louis Hills using technology, off-duty cops to deter crime
Q: Is there a history of the security initiative?
The history of the security initiative, from start to implementation, is available here.
Q: What will happen to the security initiative as a result of the St Louis Hills Special Business District?
The security initiative will continue in 2024 but will be transitioned to the SBD. For more information, please visit the SBD website.
Q: Who do I contact if I have questions or concerns?
For questions or concerns, please contact Tom Scheifler at email@example.com.