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'It's horrible' | Neighbors say Hamilton Heights ballpark overrun with drugs and prostitution

It was the first field built by Cardinals Care for area kids. Now neighbors say the city park is overrun with crime.

ST. LOUIS — Crime scene tape is still wrapped around the back porch of the home where a 34-year-old woman was found shot and killed. Police still have not released her name, and there's little information about what happened. But neighbors say they're not surprised.

Crime is escalating in Hamilton Heights — they say — and the source of many of their problems may begin just down the street from the crime scene.

"You can see what they're doing," neighbor Derrick Brown said looking at the group of people at the corner of Clara and Wells Avenues. "I'm not really going to say what they're doing. Everybody knows what they're doing. It's not fair to them, it's not fair to the kids, it's not fair to the community."

Derrick Brown has lived in this neighborhood for more than 20 years, but in that time he's never seen a game at Hamilton Heights Park. It houses a ballpark — the first ballpark built by the Cardinals Care foundation in the late 90s — donated to the city.

The only visitors in the bullpen these days are adults, and everyone who passes says foul behavior is only increasing.

"I don't know what happened," long-time resident Viola Patrick said. "I don't know what happened to make all these drug dealers and prostitutes come to our area."

Patrick has lived near the park for 38 years. She said she used to take her son to play baseball on the diamond, but it's been a long time since any young players took the field. And there are concerns about the litter left behind by loiterers.

"My neighbor across the street, he goes over and he cleans up. He's so disgusted now, he doesn't go over there anymore," Patrick said. "I had to put 'no trespassing' signs around my yard because they started migrating on my porch, and God knows I'm going to kill them if come up there."

"It's horrible. There's no telling what's under here," Brown said kicking at the tall grass. "There's no telling. And I don't want to be the one to stick my hand down in there and see."

While 5 On Your Side was at the park, police patrolled the perimeter, and a couple of unmarked cars pulled up to run a warrant check on someone they thought looked familiar, though it didn't look like they made any arrests.

Brown says he'd like to see things cleaned up here.

"It's one of the best small fields in the city," he said, but he worries the problems will persist.

Alderman Jeffrey Boyd said he understands the concerns.

"Absolutely," he said. "I drive by there every day. It's an eyesore."

He plans to ask the city's Parks & Recreation Department to remove benches at the field, though he believes it will not solve the root of the problem: drugs.

Contact reporter Sara Machi on Facebook and Twitter.

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