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St. Louis Metropolitan Police Overkill On Washington Avenue

June 8, 2012 Crime, Downtown, Featured 27 Comments

A week ago tonight the St. Louis Metropolitan Police were all over four blocks of Washington Ave  (10th-14th). This will be my fifth summer as a downtown resident and last weekend seemed very familiar based on the last few year.

It goes something like this:

  1. Zero police presence during the busiest times (late friday & saturday nights)
  2. Something bad happens, usually a late night shooting
  3. Everyone gets upset
  4. Elected officials and police develop a plan
  5. Following weekend make a huge show of force
  6. Next weekend police nowhere to be found
What will tonight and tomorrow night look like? My guess is nothing like last weekend.
ABOVE: The St. Louis Police "Incident Command Center" truck was parked on Tucker at Washington Ave.
ABOVE: Flares were used at 14th Street to make sure drivers saw the barricades

As officers began placing the barricades to block eastbound Washington at 14th the officers were wearing dark uniforms and the lighting is poor, drivers couldn’t see them. One officer yelled at a couple of drivers like this was an occupied police state. Maybe the flares were necessary given the poor execution of going from open to closed road. The number of police was astonishing, blue uniforms and vehicles everywhere.

Personally I think closing the street to traffic killed the vibrancy of the street.  Will this be sustained all summer or will it be impossible to find a single cop on these four blocks tonight?

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "27 comments" on this Article:

  1. msrdls says:

    The use of flares, the number of policemen,  and especially the presence of the command center vehicle certainly weren’t a welcome mat, were they? Almost gives the impression that a nearby retailer would be smart to sell or rent bullet-resistant vests and steel helmets. 

  2. Justin S. says:

    been saying it since 1998 – Washington Ave. / downtown is a commercial and entertainment district and should be operated as such.  loud noise and crowds of people are expected and the business model won’t change anytime soon.  The Loop has had the same challenges, but it continues to move forward.  Anyone who moved downtown or Wash. Ave and expected anything different were fooled by the developers.   

    • Downtown2007 says:

      True and I don’t think anyone has a problem with noise and being on Washinton. It’s the excessive noise from subwoofers that shake buildings that are unnecessary.

  3. Aaronlevi says:

    My band was playing the RFT showcase last weekend. Didn’t care for the police state feel, but liked that Washington was pedestrian only-with the large crowd and sidewalk dining, having the street available relieved sidewalk congestion. I thought it was funny though that a block away there were 20 people parking lot drinking at st Charles and Rucker and there wasn’t a cop in sight.

  4. msrdls says:

    Americans aren’t used to seeing this type of police presence. I traveled fairly often on business to Tel Aviv a few years ago, and there and at that time the military  regularly stood guard (with intimidating weaponry in hand) at each major intersection especially along streets and sidewalks that border the Mediterranean, from roughly 6 PM until Midnight or later. The Israelis appeared to be fairly comfortable with it, but Americans and Europeans, less so. Let’s hope Washington Avenue doesn’t become like the Mediterranean boardwalk.

    • samizdat says:

       We are not used to this type of police state presence because it is entirely unnecessary. All the SLPD needs to do is have a few dedicated squads running up and down the street. Perhaps they could institute a couple of walking patrols. Get the cops out there amongst the public, talking, interacting. Probably not going to happen, but hey, one could hope. This nonsense they do every summer is a sure sign of an unprofessional and poorly managed police force. This police state shite just scares some people, and pisses off others (and no, not necessarily the bad element alone). Oh, and please, let’s leave the ludicrous reactionary Israeli tactics in Israel. We don’t need our police–already armed to the teeth due to the Prohibition (drug) money and the post-9/11 hysteria dollars (really, a command center, not to mention the armored vehicles dispatched willy-nilly to various constabularies?)–strolling around clutching automatic people-killers because some fool thinks it’s kewl to fire off his semi-auto 9mm in front of a club. I mean really, what is it with gun owners? Freaks. Besides, the Israeli police probably have three times the training hours than American cops undergo. The thought of a typical STL cop rolling around with an automatic weapon scares me considerably more than some twit with an inferiority complex and a small penis in possession of a 9mm. Let’s leave the paramilitary tactics alone. This isn’t a banana republic–yet.

  5. JZ71 says:

    At least you weren’t in East St. Louis last weekend, where the SWAT team arrived at one club in an armored personnel carrier!

    Agree with your analysis of the cycle of responses.  Part of it is politicians and bureaucrats doing what they do best (looking good, putting out the fire du jour), part of it is that the new businesses here are changing the dynamic, and part of it is limited resources – the cops simply can’t be everywhere nor can they anticipate every trouble spot.

    I expect that this weekend will see a reduced presence, but the police will still be there . . .

    • Brad Waldrop says:

      Look up “Predictive Analytics” and “Police Chief Magazine” in a Google search. It’s 2012.

      • JZ71 says:

        I can predict that there will be loud drunks around popular bars/clubs at closing time and I can predict that there will be speeders on every freeway.  The issue isn’t predicting or anticipating crime, the issue is limited resources and how to best deploy them.  Politicians and the media respond to the squeaky wheel and the “big” story du jour.  The reality, in St. Louis, is that “a shooting/murder in north St. Louis” (something that happens almost every day) rarely raises an eyebrow, any more, while “shots fired” on Washington Avenue or a “rampaging crowd” of youths in the Loop generates a full-fledged, albeit, relatively short-term, police response/presence.  You may want/demand more police in popular parts of downtown.  Are you willing to tell the rest of the city that they deserve less?  Are you willing to pay higher taxes, to fund more officers?  Are you willing to trade constitutional rights against unwarranted search and seizure with the type of “stop and frisk” that is practiced in NYC?  Based on profiling?  Downtown is a challenging mix of residents who want a peaceful neighborhood, visitors who want to be where the action is and to “let their hair down” and  (potential) thugs who have as much of a right to be on the public sidewalk as you or I do UNTIL they actually do something illegal!

  6. Fozzie says:

    Random gunfire outside of the clubs has killed the vibrancy of the street, not the police presence.

  7. Greg says:

    Per the SLMPD’s Facebook page, they will be out on Washington again this weekend:

    “This weekend the St Louis Police Department will continue it’s
    evaluation of the recently enacted strategies on Washington Avenue to
    ensure the safety and security of both residents and patrons.

    This weekend the Department will implement the following strategies:

    On Friday and Saturday evenings between 11:00pm and 3:00am Westbound
    Washington Avenue between Tucker Boulevard and 14th Street will be closed.

    On Friday and Saturday evenings, if the Department deems it necessary
    for traffic control, Westbound Washington Avenue may be closed at 10th
    Street; and Northbound Tucker Avenue may be closed at Olive Street after

    After 11:00pm all valets will be closed on Washington
    Avenue and relocated to the corner of Washington Avenue and 14th Street
    and Washington Avenue and Tucker Street.

    After 11:00pm there
    will be three dedicated taxicab stands located at: Washington Avenue and
    14th Street; Washington Avenue and 11th Street; and Washington Avenue
    and Tucker Street.

    The Department thanks those who have
    provided feedback after the changes implemented last weekend and
    encourage both residents and patrons to provide us feedback again this
    weekend at [email protected].”

    • msrdls says:

      The net effect of this concentrated effort to control Washington Avenue could have the same effect as the US’s  efforts in Afganistan and elsewhere. Locally, the bad guys know the city can’t afford to sustain the effort indefinitely, so they’ll probably just play a sit-and-wait game. Something is terribly wrong here!

      • Shabadoo says:

        you are so insightful, give us more of your unadulterated wisdom 

      • Downtown2007 says:

        Its not costing any extra money so it’s not unreasonable that at least some of the presence will be maintained.

  8. moe says:

    Police, police, police.    Blame the police.  How about blaming the IRRESPONSIBLE bar servers and drinkers.  Stop serving people till they are drunk enough to fire that gun!  Just because you have a few drinks does not entitle you to being an ass and making a rukus.

  9. Mark says:

    if only the SLMPD put in this much of an effort when an actual murder happens in st. louis. 

  10. megrot says:

    Steve, any updates based on Friday night?

    • It was much better, they closed the westbound traffic from Tucker to 14th. Cruisers seemed to head eastbound then turn around further east and cruise back westbound 8th to Tucker.

    • I’ll be going out later tonight to try to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

      • Downtown2007 says:

        THe cruising was much better this weekend but there are still a lot of people coming down and loitering in the area. They don’t patronize businesses or spend any money. They come down to hang out on the sidewalk and cause trouble. It’s also gotten worse on the perimeter and parallel streets outside of 10th-14th on Wash.

        They are going to discuss the issue again this week. They mentioned on channel 5 that they may pull the plug on the sidewalk tables earlier to curb the loitering issue. Not sure why paying customers are being penalized nor should we be taking watchful eyes off the street.

  11. Mgubin says:

    People bitch at the police when something happens like a shooting or fight and then when they patrol the area and do things to protect he people people bitch.  Give me a break.  The police are risking their lives so that we can have a decent downtown.  Unfortunately, there are quite a few thugs that try to ruin it for everybody else. I was there last night and I appreciated the police presence.  There was almost a fight outside of a club and the police came over right away and diffused the situation.  Thanks you STLPD.   

    • Richardwilliamson12 says:

      Most of the problems are caused by thugs roaming the streets looking for trouble.  Most of the people coming from the cards game or that live in the lofts down here are causing no trouble. 

      • CK1 says:

        you’re dead on.  my 22 year old son was on wash ave the night of the rft showcase … he and a buddy and their dates were verbally assaulted on the street numerous times by thugs (your word) looking to start shit.  it’s a frickin’ shame …the dubliner has been a favorite hangout of he and his friends for a few years … he has no plans to go back any time soon.  He was told that the cops in the Loop put the hammer down on the roving bands of street thugs so they now hang on wash ave … again, it’s a frickin’ shame that these a-holes can take over one of the few entertainment districts that we have in the city.  i say keep the cops coming.

  12. ihtnep says:

    Can we find an easy medium here? I work near a party district in Tokyo, and there are always police standing around on Friday and Saturday nights. They don’t kill the buzz at all, just a good safety measure anywhere you get late night crowds (yes, violent crime happens in Tokyo). It seems that if we have some presence on the loop or wash avenue consistently monitoring with backup available if needed, then we won’t have to wait for another shooting to repeat the cycle of politicians playing CYA.

    • Exactly, had they been around the last two years the troublesome few wouldn’t have come around.

      • Brad Waldrop says:

        SLMPD’s leadership should have hit this hard ASAP. Now we’re playing catch up. I do not agree w/ some of the descriptions used in these posts in terms of characterizing individuals. There are good and bad behaviors for a NEIGHBORHOOD. We need to work together as one neighborhood and see what the majority of the NEIGHBORHOOD wants. Loud music and cruising? Under 21s drinking? Stronger police presence at all hours because DT is full of uses??


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