In August of 1995, the residents of the 5000-5200 Blocks of Westminster Place along with adjoining Lake properties voted to establish a Special Business District in order to provide uniformed security patrols for the residents of the district. The measure was put before the voters of the district through the cooperation of the Westminster Place Association and the Westminster Place Improvement Association (5200 block). The boundaries of the district are Kingshighway on the east, Union on the west and the alleys on the North between Westminster Place and Washington, and on the South between Westminster Place and Waterman. (Special Districts for Washington Place and Waterman-Lake were established at the same time.)
The Special Business District is established under the laws of Missouri and began operation on January 1, 1996. There are seven commissioners, who must all be residents or business owners of the district. They are appointed by the mayor with the recommendation of the Alderman. The alderman solicits the advice of the two street associations for recommendations to the mayor. The Commissioners in 2003 were Tom Shrout (5056), Les Wright (5060), Charles Merrill (5257), Ann Kittlaus, Tricia Roland, Gary Griffin (484 Lake), and John Roslevich (484 Lake).
The vote in 1995 authorized the district for ten years with a tax rate of $0.85 per $1000 of assessed valuation, the highest rate allowable by law. (Most homeowners on the 5000-5100 block pay $300 to $400 per year. Homes on the 5200 block pay more.) According to state law, the tax generated by the district can increase no more than the consumer price index or 5% whichever is lower. With increased values in the district, the rate has been adjusted downward to stay within these percentages. As of December 2003, the rate is $0.6682 per $1000 of assessed valuation.
The tax generates about $31,000 per year. In addition New City School, St. John's United Methodist Church and The Church of Christ Scientist make voluntary contributions to the operation of the district. All of the revenue is used to contract with "The City's Finest" for security services.
Since the spring of 1998, the Washington Place Business District has been subcontracting with the Westminster-Lake Business District for about $10,000 in security services per year. The arrangement has worked well. On a practical basis this means the security officer is on duty on average seven hours a day rather than six, spending 45 minutes each hour of duty on Westminster/Lake and 15 minutes each hour on Washington.
The district’s commissioners have instructed "The City's Finest" to:
Work a seven-hour
shift each weekday and
eight hours each weekend between dusk and dawn;
Vary the shift start time so as not to be predictable, and
Spend time in each district in proportion to what the respective district pays.
Further updated by The SBD Commissioners, October 2018; and edited to reflect the current commissioners
We hope the following information will help residents understand the roles of the SBD, the NSI, and the residents of our neighborhood.
First, some preliminary background may help. Our SBD was created by city ordinance. Its purpose is to manage our tax dollars for the purpose of providing “…special police and/or security facilities, equipment, vehicles and/or personnel for the protection and enjoyment of the property owners and the general public within the District.” (Ordinance #63481). The SBD may also prohibit or restrict vehicular traffic, close City-owned streets or alleys, or construct, install, improve and/or maintain useful or necessary desired security related improvements, in cooperation with the City.
The NSI, which is funded by six SBD’s and Washington University Medical School, was founded in 2007 to coordinate the security efforts of the SBD’s and the medical center, and to work with local law enforcement to prosecute crimes in our neighborhoods. The NSI does not routinely receive any reports or regular communication from the SLMPD or any other police departments. It is not notified when crimes occur in the CWE. The NSI learns of crimes in the CWE when residents call the NSI office to report crimes or suspicious activities. The NSI also learns about incidents from the police when the police contact the NSI to review camera footage. The NSI shares camera images with law enforcement to help with criminal investigations. It does not monitor any camera footage in real time.
Neither the SBD or the NSI is primarily responsible for alerting neighbors about crimes or incidents in the area. Neither entity is set up to do that. The NSI, when it learns of an incident in the CWE, can check camera footage, if available, to help identify suspects. It shares these images and footage with police. Once it does this, the police department determines what to do with the camera footage or images, as they become part of the police file on the case. The NSI cannot release information to the neighborhood until the police department gives it permission to do so.
Why can’t we see these images as soon as they are identified by the NSI? First and foremost, to prematurely release the images could be harmful to the ongoing police investigation. The police must show the images to the victim(s) to make a positive identification before the image is shared with the general public. This can take time. Second, without a positive identification, an innocent person may be wrongly accused of a crime. Once a positive ID is made, the police department decides how the images are disseminated. Often local media are the first to receive these images because television and newspapers have the broadest coverage in the region. The NSI lobbies the police to get permission to release images to the public, but the integrity of the police investigation is the highest concern.
We, individually, as neighbors, can alert one another when there is an incident, but call the police first. If we see suspicious activity or actually see a crime occur, call 911. If anyone is the victim of a crime, try to call 911 or have someone do it for you, but take care of yourself first. If we hear of a possible incident, we can call the NSI office to see if something has been reported, but remember, the NSI does not investigate or report crimes. It aids the police in investigating crimes, thanks in part to the cameras we have provided. The NSI can review camera footage, which takes time. There are multiple cameras on our street and throughout the CWE.
Please feel free to come to our next meeting, if you have concerns or suggestions. The meetings are always open. Generally, we meet every other month on the third Wednesday. We post signs at the Westminster/Lake intersection to remind residents of the time and location of the meetings. We also encourage you to visit the NSI office to meet the staff and learn what they do. The office is at 447 North Euclid Ave, Saint Louis, MO 63108 (314-454-4808).
We all have to be eyes and ears for each other. We have to look out for one another. That’s what makes this a wonderful neighborhood.
Sincerely, Westminster-Lake SBD Commissioners Corey Jones, Gina Heagney, Sharon Lightfoot, Sally Nikolajevich, Eric Scroggins, Phil Willman
"The City's Finest" is a deterrent to nonresidents roaming around in the district after dark, but they do not work 24 hours a day and rarely are on duty during the day. Good lighting (motion detectors), fencing, locked doors, deadbolts, observant neighbors, house alarms, car alarms and good sense are in order. Although the number of incidents on the street has gone down drastically since the creation of the district, there are still incidents of crimes of opportunity such as car tag thefts and breaking into cars where owners have left belongings in sight. Residents can deter this kind of activity by slashing license tags and removing everything from automobiles.
Remember, if you see something suspicious, call 911 first, then call "The City's Finest" (458-9297). If you have a comment about the district, call Virginia Heagney at 367-8983 or Corey Jones at 454-3519.
On the Internet
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department makes neighborhood crime information available through its "Crime Statistics" page. See also "Crime Reports." Of course, these services can only track reported incidents. So make that call!