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Wells-Goodfellow "Hot Spot" Pays Dividends

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

St. Louis police said last month’s decision to dedicate additional resources to the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood on the city's northwest side is paying off.

Since designating the area as a "hot spot," police have made nearly 90 arrests. Some were for probation and parole violations, others for crimes in progress. They also pulled 20 guns off the street during the 10-day period.

Wells-Goodfellow was the site of eight of the city’s murders this year. Chief Sam Dotson said in an interview today at an anti-terrorism conference that since the saturation patrol, no one else has been killed in the neighborhood.

The next step, he said, is what he called "hot spot II." That's when city departments follow the police presence into the neighborhood by boarding up vacant buildings, mowing vacant lots and repairing streetlights.  

"I'm a big believer in the 'broken windows' theory. That is, if neighborhoods show signs of deterioration, the criminal element feels more comfortable to operate," Dotson said. "But I also need the social service providers to actually put boots on the ground and to offer educational services, substance abuse services, family programs and those types of things. And we’re seeing that coming behind."

Ald. Jeffrey Boyd, who represents the area, said he expected the calm to last for only couple of months, but said it was absolutely worth it. The department has not yet announced the location of the next hotspot.

Cyber crime patterns in St. Louis region mirror nation

Dotson was one of several speakers at an annual corporate anti-terrorism conference sponsored by the Eastern District of Missouri, the federal court based in St. Louis.

Also on the minds of many conference attendees: Cyber security.

Douglas Roberts, a special assistant to the special agent in charge of the St. Louis office of the Secret Service, told the audience that when it comes to cyber crimes, the main trends are the theft of credit card information, so-called “phishing” attacks via email and malware on business computers.

"Here in St. Louis, it’s a problem because you have several interstates, and you’ll see groups that’ll travel throughout the United States committing these crimes, and they use the highway systems that are the most convenient to hit the larger cities on those routes,"  Roberts said.

Data compiled by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a non-profit agency, found that between 2009 and 2013, at least  45 companies in Missouri had some form of data security breach, although not all were cyber-related. The biggest one by far was a 2013 the hacking of Schnucks grocery store's credit card system. That may have resulted in the theft of information from 500,000 or more credit and debit cards. Roberts said his office and the FBI are still investigating the incident.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.