CARONDELET, MO. - St. Louisans in two different neighborhoods are taking their streets back from criminals. They're using their own money to pay off-duty police officers to patrol.
"Everyone deserves a safe place to live," Carondelet resident Angela Cierpiot said.
Steve Butz lives in the neighboring neighborhood, Holly Hills.
"About 18 months ago to two years ago there was a pretty serious spike in crime in Holly Hills," Butz said.
In an effort to improve safety, Butz came up with a program called Cops Walking a Beat. Last November, off-duty police officers began to patrol certain alleys and streets within Holly Hills.
"There's probably 70 neighbors a month who stop by my house and just hand me a check made out to Campbell Security," Butz said. "I gather them up and we turn them in and that's how we pay the officers."
Butz says the extra police presence is helping.
"Crime has been going down steadily in Holly Hills," he said. "I would not say it's solely because of the Cops Walking a Beat program."
Now, he's bringing it to Carondelet alongside Cierpiot and her husband. The program officially launched Tuesday. Already, neighbors are donating.
"We kind of copied off of Steve Butz's postcard and we sent those out about a week or two ago," Cierpiot said. "We just got a check today from one of our neighbors for $100."
Officers are patrolling nine avenues, including Loughborough, Idaho, Alabama, and Vermont. Cierpiot says officers could eventually patrol the entire neighborhood, but more neighbors would need to make monthly donations.
"We need 50 houses to really keep it going," she said.
It's possible the program could reach even more neighborhoods in the future. Butz says several neighborhood associations have asked him to speak about it at their events, including the Newport Heights Neighborhood Association and the Hill.
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