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.
"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 Les Wright at 367-4788.
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!