ST. LOUIS — Danielle Harper knows tens of thousands of Blues and Cardinals fans are about to descend upon downtown St. Louis’ parking garages. And as a downtown resident who pays to park in one of them, she’s concerned for their safety.
Her car has been broken into three times within the past two months.
“It’s a frustrating feeling, it’s an uneasy feeling, not being able to keep my car in a place where it’s supposed to be safe,” she said, as she stood inside the Central Downtown Garage where pieces of her glass window still litter the parking space where it was shattered two weeks ago.
“They know it's a lot of people coming to see the games, it’s like, ‘Oh, more cars, more chance for me to go in and see what I can grab out of their cars, their valuables.’”
Harper pays $110 a month to park there, and it’s on a list of "preferred parking garages" that Explore St. Louis put together in 2016 along with then St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones’ office.
With the summer festival and sports season kicking into high gear, the I-Team wanted to know which ones were the safest.
An analysis of the more than 1,370 times St. Louis police were called to 18 locations during the past three years showed Harper’s garage was among the top three garages with the most calls to police to report safety threats including shots fired, assaults, robberies, fights, car break-ins, attempted car break-ins, stolen cars as well as disturbances that include car racing, people openly carrying guns, arguing and shooting fireworks.
To get on the list of preferred parking garages, Explore St. Louis said facilities had to be inspected and sign an agreement committing to maintaining safety, security, structural and Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, and payment standards.
Explore St. Louis referred the I-Team’s questions about whether parking garages and surface lots are regularly inspected to stay on the list to the city’s Department of Public Safety.
The mayor's press secretary said he is working to learn more.
Meanwhile, Deputy Public Safety Director Heather Taylor told the I-Team bicycle officers will be patrolling parking lots and garages during game times.
“They have the flexibility to do that outside of what a car can do, and some of the officers who are working secondary, part of their job duties are to check parking lots, to walk through the parking lots, to do things like that,” she said.
St. Louis police Maj. Rene Kreismann also oversees downtown details.
“We will have those secondary officers both in and outside of the Enterprise Center, and then we will have overtime officers that will work and really remain focused on those parking lots, the couple of garages that are around the Enterprise Center," she said.
Harper’s garage is a little less than a mile away from the Enterprise Center.
While the I-Team was visiting Harper there earlier this month, gates at its entrances were wide open, and a door that is supposed to require customers like Harper to swipe a parking badge to gain entry was unlocked.
Leon King parks three cars at the Central Downtown Garage. Each one of them has been broken into – one of them was hit twice.
“I don't keep anything in it because this garage is known for thieves and criminals to come in and take what they want to take,” he said. “Catalytic converters have been stolen, CD players, weapons, purses, money, you name it. Everything has been stolen out of this garage from vehicles.
“This is frequently, this is very often. And I'm not the only person that's suffering from this.”
King and Harper’s cars were broken into on the same day earlier this month. The day also happened to be Harper’s birthday.
"As the summer comes, they come out. And there's glass all on this street so at this point, no, I don't feel safe parking anywhere," Harper said. "First it was $300 for one window, now it's $600 for these two windows.
“We went to put stuff in the car, and the driver's side window was cracked and my back window behind the driver's side was shattered. And it just kind of put a damper on the day.”
King now has to open the handle on his driver’s side door with two hands to hold the lock in place because it was damaged during the last break-in.
“Something has to be done because somebody's going to get hurt or killed,” he said.
The city of St. Louis owns four of the parking garages the I-Team analyzed. The remaining 14 are owned by St. Louis Parking and Citi Park.
The top three lots that had the highest number of calls for police—including Harper and King's—are all owned by St. Louis Parking. That company also owns two of the lots with the fewest calls for police service.
The I-Team left messages for all of the parking lot owners and managers. None of the messages was immediately returned.
The garages pinned in the map below had the fewest calls for service in the last three years. You can also see the map by tapping here. See the list of garages listed by calls for service below.
Here is a look at how the lots measure up when it comes to calls for police service, ranked with the safest at the top:
10TH AND PINE, 913 Pine Street — 1
CITI PARK, 605 N. Second Street — 1
LACLEDE'S LANDING,801 N. First Street — 2
PARK PACIFIC, 1212 Olive Street — 2
QUIK PARK, 309 N. Fourth Street — 3
STADIUM WEST, 215 S. 8th Street — 9
KIEL CENTER, 1515 Clark Ave. — 13
JUSTICE CENTER, 1115 Clark Ave. — 15
KIENER EAST, 500 Pine Street — 17
ST. LOUIS CONVENTION CENTER HOTEL, 419 N. 9th Street — 21
7TH STREET GARAGE, 601 Locust St. — 23
CENTRAL DOWNTOWN, 707 Pine St. — 30
STADIUM EAST, 200 S. Broadway — 37
KIENER WEST, 604 Pine St. — 39
CUPPLES STATION, 421 S. 10th St. — 42
NINTH STREET, 911 Olive St. — 43
MANSION HOUSE, 200 N. Fourth St. — 59
ST. LOUIS CENTER EAST, 420 N. 6th St. — 117
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story inaccurately named the garage where Diane Harper and Leon King park.