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Downtown taxing district hires former Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson to combat crime

"We want to facilitate coordination and improvement in matters having to do with crime and safety"

ST. LOUIS — Downtown St. Louis' taxing district said it has hired a former Missouri State Highway Patrol captain to evaluate security needs in the neighborhood, a move that comes as downtown has struggled amid the pandemic and the district seeks a new term.

The Downtown Community Improvement District said it hired Ron Johnson's Lodestone Solutions Group, at an initial two-month term of $19,000, to develop crime deterrent measures, possibly including those that would help calm traffic, after meeting with police officials, Mayor Tishaura Jones' administration and Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. Johnson, a former captain with the Missouri Highway Patrol who became prominent during 2014's Ferguson unrest, could continue on with the CID after the first 60 days, which began about July 6.

"We want to facilitate coordination and improvement in matters having to do with crime and safety," said Laura Radcliff, a member of the CID's board and managing director of public finance at Stifel Financial Corp. "We did not just want another study."

Radcliff said the potential second phase of the contract would involve "action."

Johnson, who's also done work for Gardner, said his firm would examine all aspects of downtown, and create "new partnerships that have not been a part of the CID's platform to this point."

"We will look into what the strengths of the CID are, and what the weaknesses are," Johnson said. "We'll be able to create an excellent plan moving forward."

One service Johnson will provide is "social media security intelligence gathering," according to the contract.

The CID has long provided security services, totaling about $980,000 in fiscal 2022. Its security measures include a downtown bike patrol police unit, supplemental security services that deploy off-duty police officers through a third-party contractor, awareness campaigns, and lighting and camera improvements, said Kelli McCrary, the CID's executive director.

Downtown, though, saw lawlessness spike amid the pandemic, when office workers and leisure visitors stayed away. Radcliff said there were no person crimes downtown during recent gymnastics events. "Crime has been trending downward a little bit lately," she said. 

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