On Saturday morning, November 28 - the Saturday after Thanksgiving - the number of broken auto windows - evidenced by the piles of windows glass along the road and from the still parked, damaged cars - on Soulard and S. 10th Streets was discomforting. A simple shopping trip to Soulard Farmers’ Market yielded insight into the condition of neighborhood civility.
In front of 1823 S. 10th was a red truck with a broken driver’s side window, and there was a fresh pile of broken glass where an adjoining vehicle would have parked. Across the street in front of 1824 S. 10th was what looked like older broken glass (it was scattered) and an auto with a temporary black plastic bag driver’s side window. Around the corner and in front of 911 Soulard was another car with a broken window, plus two fresh piles of broken window glass in adjoining spaces. Across the street in front of 904 Soulard was an older spread of broken window glass.
It looked like somebody had taken out five windows during the previous night, supplementing evidence of older vandalism in the vicinity. The car in front of 911 Soulard had temporary Colorado plates. Not an auspicious beginning for a new purchase.
What is one to make of this?
In an e-mail blaster message from Terry Hoffman - and copied from Lisa Otke’s blaster message dated Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009 - the weekend before Thanksgiving - the message was:
"Great news from Officer Hickel, Soulard Community Officer.
"Officers caught 4 black males, 17 years old breaking into vehicles on Wednesday night in Soulard. There had several handbags and valuable in the vehicle they were driving which had been stolen earlier in the day. They were responsible for several car break-ins around the area. This should reduce crime in the area!
"Thanks to Officer Hickel for sharing this good news!! Let’s hope we see a reduction of crime for awhile!!
"Have a good week and Happy Thanksgiving!"
The call to celebrate was premature. One could try for some humor and comment that Hi-Tech Security, the "rent-a-cop" company hired with our special business district add-on tax, is hot on restoring neighborhood manners, but it seems that there is nothing humorous - nor effective - about Hi-Tech Security. Two recent stories in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch hinted that scandal touches the company, suggesting it suffers from a defective business plan.
Of course, over the last number of years, civility has not been a Soulard trademark. The Mardi Gras Grand Parade Day (and other boozy festivals) promotes Soulard as a place to waste, all in the name of celebrating drunkenness while boosting the bottom lines of area bars and restaurants.
Year around, the patrons of the bars and restaurants do a fine job of leaving a debris trail that helps convey the message that "nobody cares what happens in this neighborhood," the price we pay for the unsought designation from the City of St. Louis of "Entertainment District."
The Soulard Restoration Group, a self-centered collection of poseurs, believes that promoting the party somehow promotes the neighborhood. They effortlessly sidestep the truth that fighting trash, just like fighting crime, requires healthy neighborhood morale and effective leadership. What years ago had been an evolving residential neighborhood has been traded for a "party neighborhood."
So maybe we can see all these broken windows - and a lot of other anti-social events - as "Soulard’s Revenge," as payback from our namesake for directing his neighborhood down the road towards Pigpensville. Random vandalism, occasionally mixed with violence or the threat of violence, coupled with trash, noise, accidents, etc., all the stuff from the police blotter, are "Soulard’s Revenge" for turning a historic residential neighborhood into St. Louis’ Party Neighborhood, as The Riverfront Times labels us.