ST. LOUIS — City of St. Louis lawmakers on Friday advanced a plan to contract with a surveillance plane operator in a bid to solve more murders.
In a close 15-14 tally, the Board of Aldermen directed Mayor Lyda Krewson to enter a contract with Ohio-based Persistent Surveillance Systems for an 18-month term. A final vote remains.
Alderman Tom Oldenburg, the bill's sponsor, said the program, in which up to three surveillance planes fly no more than 18 hours a day over the city, was needed to try to boost the number of solved murders. The technology would capture images of the city using high-resolution cameras fixed to the planes.
Oldenburg said just 31% of murders were solved, or cleared, last year, when there were 262 murders in the city, a record rate of violence.
Oldenburg has said the city wouldn't pay for the services, and that the Laura and John Arnold Foundation of Houston could pay the costs. If not, he said, Persistent Surveillance Systems' owner, Ross McNutt, would find another funder. The Arnold Foundation is waiting to commit until results from a Rand Corp. study analyzing the effectiveness of aerial surveillance in solving crimes has been published, according to media reports.
"Clearly the police don't have the information or tools to work from," Oldenburg said. "This gets them some help, the opportunity to study if it gets them some help."
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