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'We are scared for our lives': Downtown St. Louis residents beg for safety improvements

"There is a feeling among the residents of lawlessness," one resident shared.

ST. LOUIS — Casandra Hodges faced the floor out of fear Tuesday night.  

After hearing multiple gunshots, she dropped to the ground for safety in her apartment.

"I heard the gunshots, it sounded like tah tah tah," Hodges tells 5 On Your Side.

Wednesday morning, the noise is still vivid in her mind.

And so are the images. 

Hodges has been living at the Arcade Apartments in downtown St. Louis for a year. 

She says the crime has only gotten worse.

On Tuesday night before 9 p.m., a man in his 30s was shot and killed in front of her home at the Arcade Apartments.

Investigators said he was shot multiple times.

Hodges shared, it all started in the mail room.

"Where you see the windows shot out at, that's where the mail room is at. I heard someone say, I've been shot. We are scared for our lives down here. What we are going to do as a community?" Hodges shared. "He was right there with gunshot wounds to the chest and to see that in front of my apartment building, I'm scared." 

Credit: KSDK

The glass on the ground and broken windows mimic a shattered sense of safety.

Hodges said she's seen several car theft attempts and she almost got robbed herself. 

However, she isn't the only one witnessing this.

"The last three years have been particularly violent," Claire Flowers said.

Flowers spoke to 5 On Your Side's Investigative Reporter Christine Byers and explained she bought her downtown apartment 14 years ago, but she's ready to call it quits.

Two of her cars have been stolen and she's been a victim of other crimes.

Flowers added, "There's a rental business nearby and people were jumping the fence and breaking into cars when I asked them to stop... they shot at me."

Flowers plans to move out of downtown.

Hodges does too. 

"The police try and detectives try, but they are so limited on resources that the theft of your automobile is in the back burner. You really need to get shot, carjacked, or raped to get real attention," Flowers shared. 

Back in October, 5 On Your Side's Christine Byers wrote up in her 'Byers' Beat' about staffing concerns among the St. Louis Police Department.

In an email, Interim Police Chief Michael Sack sent to his officers on Oct. 6, 2022, Sack told the police department it had 905 police officers and detectives on Oct. 4, 2021.  

As of Oct. 3, 2022, Sack said the department was down to 811.                

That’s 94 fewer officers and detectives.         

“This puts a burden on us to perform our duties with fewer officers,” he wrote in part. “We must pay attention to staffing in the line platoons and on squads. No squad should have fewer than five officers with the optimum number being seven officers. I wish I could give you more, but this is the reality."

On Wednesday, police say they plan to roll out a holiday plan to step up patrols and will pay officers overtime this season.

As the staffing issues continue to cause a burden, residents also feel the pain.

"There is a feeling among the residents of lawlessness," Flowers shared.

As for Hodges, she's begging for city leaders to step in, before others move out.

The Mayor's Office for St. Louis City sent this statement:

"Keeping St. Louis residents and visitors safe is the City's top priority. Through the Downtown Engagement and Public Safety Initiative, the City is coordinating with corporate and civic partners to improve public safety Downtown. These efforts have led to Peabody recommitting to Downtown St. Louis, while also holding nuisance properties, like Reign, accountable."

If anyone has information about Tuesday's homicide, call the Homicide Division directly at 314-444-5371, or anyone with a tip who wants to remain anonymous and is interested in a reward can contact CrimeStoppers at 866-371-TIPS (8477).

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