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Dutchtown community members discuss crime, solutions

Leaders from the Dutchtown Community Improvement District hosted the 'Safer Dutchtown Summit' on Saturday morning.

ST. LOUIS — South St. Louis neighbors are coming together to try to make their streets safer. 

Leaders from the Dutchtown Community Improvement District hosted the 'Safer Dutchtown Summit' on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Small business owners and residents discussed the challenges and solutions their community is currently facing.

The conference focused on education to help people be more proactive. 

Caya Aufiero, Dutchtown Community Improvement District President, said the main message was that safety isn't just a law enforcement issue and everyone needs to come together to make their neighborhood better.

"Police can't be everywhere, and so we need to take personal responsibility to keep ourselves safe and keep our businesses and our customers safe," she said.

Like many who live in Dutchtown, Aufiero has called the St. Louis neighborhood home for 18 years. 

"My great-grandma came here as an immigrant, and so really historically, I'm a long, long, long time 'Dutchtowner'," she said.

With that family tradition, comes passion, which is why Aufiero volunteers her time as the President of the Dutchtown Community Improvement District.

"Either you fix what's not right or you leave, right, and we're not going to do that because that's just not the right thing to do," she said.

Fixing what's not right is exactly what Aufiero and Neighborhood Innovation Center President and Co-Founder, John Chen, were trying to do on Saturday with the 'Safer Dutchtown Summit.'

"I urge everyone to take action," he said to the group of people.

Small business owners and long-time residents gathered for over two hours inside the Neighborhood Innovation Center.

They talked about crime prevention with police, best practices for keeping homes and businesses safe, as well as de-escalation techniques. 

According to Aufiero, the Dutchtown CID is investing in new street cameras to help solve crimes. 

"We like to think out of the box, we like to think of other ways to solve our problems and to take care of ourselves and take care of our friends and our neighbors," she said.

While it won't happen overnight, Aufiero wants to remind her community, they're in this together.

"I hope that they feel somewhat empowered from today's gathering and that that they also feel like they're not alone," she said.

Aufiero said they wanted to do this summit ahead of the holiday season since they usually see more crime during these months. 

She said they're planning a larger conference for the spring.

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