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St. Louis aldermen back use of federal funds for anti-crime cameras

A screenshot of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen meeting taken on March 11, 2022
Screenshot / Rachel Lippmann
St. Louis Public Radio
Members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen listen as 16th Ward Alderman Tom Oldenburg (third row, far right), speaks on legislation redirecting $2.5 million in federal coronavirus relief funds from police overtime to the Real Time Crime Center.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will likely redirect $2.5 million in federal coronavirus relief money to expanding the city’s network of anti-crime cameras.

The measure received first-round approval Friday on a 21-4 vote, with three aldermen voting present. It needs one more vote to go to Mayor Tishaura Jones.

The city’s current budget includes $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act for police overtime. But with less than four months left in the fiscal year, that pool of money has yet to be touched.

“I think it’s appropriate at the request and the urging of the chief of police, that half of those dollars be appropriated to the Real Time Crime Center for the needs and the uses that those folks have there,” said 16th Ward Alderman Tom Oldenburg, the measure’s sponsor.

Third Ward Alderman Brandon Bosley said he and other supporters know the cameras may not prevent crime but can provide evidence when no one else will.

“That camera is not afraid,” he said. “It doesn't care what set you’re from, it doesn't care if you come back and shoot it, because it can be replaced. It doesn't have feelings.”

But opponents like 8th Ward Alderwoman Annie Rice were concerned about the lack of specifics in the measure.

“I know that we do have a lot of technology that needs to be upgraded, but it feels like a bit of a blank check over to the Real Time Crime Center,” Rice said. “I guess I just don’t see the urgency to put this forward without a plan.”

Also on Friday, the board sent Mayor Tishaura Jones several bills, including one from Bosley that creates a slavery reparations fund, which will get money from donations made on water, and personal property and real estate tax bills.

Another measure, from Alderwoman Sarah Martin of the 11th Ward, mandates that drinks served as part of a kid’s meal, like at a fast-food restaurant, be water, low-fat milk or juice unless the parent asks for something else.

In addition, the aldermen voted to require police officers who take a job with a different department within four years of graduating to pay back the cost of their training.

Back to City Hall

Earlier this week, the committee that oversees the board’s employees announced that the final meeting of the current session, set for April 18, will be in person, as will full board meetings going forward. Committee meetings will remain virtual.

Except for a single meeting in April 2021 to swear in new members, the board has been using Zoom for two years. St. Louis County went back to in–person or hybrid meetings in June 2021, with a brief return to a virtual setting during the omicron spike.

The chambers and offices will undergo a thorough cleaning before the board returns. There will also be some mold remediation done. Exact protocols for masks and vaccinations have yet to be determined.

But not everyone was OK with returning.

“I don’t want anybody’s germs,” said Alderwoman Sharon Tyus of the 1st Ward. “Stay away from me until we really get things under wraps. I think we push this agenda, we got to hurry up and get back because of the pressure from people.”

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann 

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