Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A False Sense of Security?

One of our neighbors, a long-time Soulard resident, property owner and observer of the neighborhood scene, tries to inform people of problems with their vehicles. Some of us do this. If we see a car with an almost flat tire, we let the driver know before the tire is ruined. If somebody leaves their auto lights on, we try to alert the owner before the battery is drained. It seems to be common courtesy.

At approximately 6:30 a.m., while driving east on Victor on her way to work, our neighbor passed one of the Hi-Tech “security force” cars parked on the south side of Victor pointing east. The cross streets, which dead end here at the Boy’s Club, were Menard and South 10th streets. The motor was running and the lights of the vehicle were on, which was appropriate since this was sometime between March 10 and 20, as near as she can place the event. After passing, she observed in her rear view mirror that one of the headlights of the security vehicle was out. This is a safety issue.

Out of habit and to inform the driver of the headlight problem, she did a turn-around and pulled up on the north side of the street, now facing west, and honked her horn. The driver was in the car with the window up. She then realized that he was asleep.

After honking a couple of more times and getting no reaction, she dialed the number on the side of the car and reported to the “dispatcher” that their security patrol was sidelined because the officer was sleeping in his vehicle with the engine running. She informed the dispatcher that she was not particularly impressed by the devotion to duty being displayed. Hi-Tech was hired under the auspices of the Soulard Special Business District to bolster Soulard security, and the bills are paid from a special add-on to property taxes.

In fact, there are several people who report seeing police officers sleeping in the Hi-Tech security cars. Madame Chouteau does not perceive that this is an end of the earth sort of situation. However, it does call into question the effectiveness - and integrity - of the security program.

Our neighbor sums up the situation: “Why are we paying extra taxes for a service that seems questionable?” Madame Chouteau would certainly like to hear some discussion of this issue, some evaluation of the benefits of the program, other than creating what may be a false sense of security.

In a recent e-mail, Cindy Harrison, Chairman, Soulard Special Business District, the organization that handles the expenditure of the special tax funds - announced that “we will be reviewing some of the accomplishments of the patrol at the district forum. If you would like more information, I suggest you attend.” The forum is scheduled to be held Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Soulard Preservation Hall.

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