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Home security cameras capture gun battles, drive-by shootouts in Soulard

City officials say the Soulard neighborhood is not equipped with ShotSpotter, the high-tech sensitive audio sensors that detect and zero in on gun shots in real-time

ST. LOUIS — Video cameras mounted on homes captured an apparent drive-by car battle in the streets of Soulard this weekend, but because the shootout occurred in a police surveillance dead zone, it slipped under the radar.

A spokesman for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said no one called 911, and no one reported any incidents in the Pontiac Park neighborhood. The first time police were made aware of the shooting was when 5 On Your Side reached out to the department.

Neighbors living nearby shared videos from their home surveillance systems that showed a car speeding northbound through the intersection at South 9th Street and Ann Avenue just after 1 a.m. early Saturday. The video shows someone fire four gunshots in less than two seconds. There were no injuries reported.

The March 18 incident occurred two weeks after another harrowing gun battle broke out on the same streets. Neighbors shared surveillance videos that showed at least two young men shielding themselves between parked cars and shooting back and forth at each other.

Detectives continue to investigate the March 3 incident, which happened moments before 11 p.m. Officers are searching for two suspects in that case.

The absence of a police report in this weekend's incident appears to expose a glaring blind spot in the St. Louis police department's surveillance systems.

Police are often alerted to live gunfire in real-time through ShotSpotter technology in other parts of town, but city officials said the Soulard neighborhood is not currently equipped with the precision audio sensors.

"There's so many gunshots that go off, I think the neighbors have just kind of become immune to these gunshots and they're like, 'OK, well, somebody else is going to report it in,'" Jeff Bachmann with the Pontiac Park Condo Association told 5 On Your Side.

Frustrated with what he sees as a deterioration in public safety, Bachmann urged police to increase their presence before crowds stop frequenting local bars and businesses.

"I've asked the police, 'Hey, can you have extra patrols come around here? Can we get one of the ShotSpotters over here?' It's been, 'We're just understaffed. We can't do that. And we can't we're not able to put that over in this area,'" he said.

Police officials declined to share coverage maps or location-specific data on the ShotSpotter technology, but acknowledged the incident from Friday night likely wouldn't have been detected.

"We need the entire city under ShotSpotter," Alderwoman Cara Spencer said.

She's on the ballot in the upcoming April 4 election against former alderman Ken Ortmann. The winner will represent the newly drawn 8th Ward, which includes Soulard and downtown St. Louis.

"Everyone is concerned with crime and safety," Ortmann said. He called for the expansion of surveillance cameras, especially around intersections, that feed live streams into SLMPD's 'Real-Time Crime Center.'

"The cameras are really good cameras, so they might get an image of the driver, anyone in the front seat, or anyone looking out," Ortmann said. "If they're firing back and forth at each other, their head or face might be out there too. So it might have a lot more information to give the police tools to find out possibly who it is and maybe intercept."

Sergeant Charles Wall, a spokesman for the St. Louis Police Department, urged businesses to sign up and plug their cameras into the city's digital infrastructure "federation."

"We just need answers from city officials on what they are going to do in all the regions," Bachmann said, "because there's so many positive things happening with the Battlehawks, the new soccer team. We've got Topgolf coming downtown. People need to feel safe when they come down or else they're not going to."

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