Pubdate: Tue, 12 Feb 2002
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Copyright: 2002 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Author: Bill Smith, The Post-Dispatch


Beleaguered residents of the LaSalle Park public housing complex -- angered 
by open drug dealing and worried about protecting their children -- 
welcomed a new St. Louis police patrol Monday to the 148-unit development.

"Things have changed," said an optimistic Marvin Thompkins, an official 
with the company that manages the complex. "This is a new day."

At 10 a.m. Monday, the St. Louis Police Department officially began 
patrolling the area, just south of the city's downtown business district, 
in the shadow of the Nestle Purina high-rise office building. LaSalle is 
the first of four public housing complexes to turn over policing 
jurisdiction to St. Louis police under a $2 million a year agreement 
between the St. Louis Housing Authority and the department.

Previously, security at LaSalle had been provided by a private security 
company. Eventually, the program also will take in the Blumeyer Village, 
Cochran Gardens and Clinton-Peabody complexes.

LaSalle Park resident LaWanda Moore, 33, a mother of three children who has 
lived in the complex for four years, said she was thrilled that the police 
had taken over security at the complex.

"People have been using this area as some kind of an amusement park," Moore 

"The fact that the police are taking over - that makes a big difference."

City Patrolmen Everett Culberson and Karl Brown, formerly partners in the 
police district that includes the Central West End area, said Monday that 
they volunteered for the new program, hoping to make a change in the lives 
of the people in the complexes.

"There are a lot of good people down here," said Brown. "It's just a few 
people making it bad for the rest of them."

Culberson said: "We want to help clean up this area. That's why we're here."

Culberson and Brown spent much of Monday morning and afternoon patrolling 
the complex on foot, memorizing streets and alleyways and nodding to the 
few residents who were outside on a crystal clear but chilly day.

"It shouldn't take long to get to know the families and know who belongs 
here and who doesn't belong," said Brown, who worked security for the 
housing authority before joining the department.

The complex is a series of well-kept, single-story frame and brick 
apartment buildings linked by well-maintained streets and sidewalks.

On Monday, two teen-age boys played catch with a football on a blacktopped 
street. Two women hurried into an apartment, their arms filled with bags of 
groceries. A series of Scooby-Doo stickers decorated one window; a sign 
that read "Our Neighborhood is Drug Free" hung in another.

Sgt. Ken Newsome spent part of his boyhood in the Blumeyer complex. He said 
he was excited about the chance to "make a difference."

He attended a meeting of residents last week, and most of those who spoke 
said their main concern was drugs, he said.

Monica Harris, 30, an 11-year resident of LaSalle and the mother of four, 
said private security had been ineffective in breaking up crowds of young 
people and keeping outsiders from trafficking drugs in the complex.

"You see the 13- and 14-year-old kids hanging out, getting involved in 
drugs," she said. "It's sad."

Thompkins, with the complex management company, said, "Because this is 
public housing, people think they can come in and get away with things on 
our property."

Most of the problems, she said, involved drugs, graffiti and vandalism.

Signs are torn down and street lights broken almost as fast as they can be 
repaired, she said. Private security guards were limited by their powers, 
she added.

Especially troublesome, she said, was the fact that private security 
personnel were not empowered to pursue lawbreakers off the housing 
authority property.

By the time police arrived, the perpetrator usually had disappeared.

Thompkins did say that some residents were worried about what they see as a 
police reputation for heavy-handed tactics.

"That is the big question," she said.

But she said the complex had been assured that the people of the complex 
would be "treated with respect."
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager