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Cameras, ID Tags Part Of New East St. Louis Public Housing Safety Plan

Brett Blume
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KMOX/Brett Blume

KMOX/Brett Blume

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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (KMOX) -  Five months in the making, a new set of security measures for East St. Louis Housing Authority properties was unveiled Wednesday by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly.

“We’re going to put in place starting in the next few months security cameras,” Durbin announced during a mid-morning press conference outside the Orr Weathers Senior High Rise at Missouri Ave. and 14th Street. “So we can monitor those coming and going and have the information necessary to keep these places safe.”

In addition, a system involving photo I.D. tags for residents will be instituted “so that those who shouldn’t be hanging around will be leaving, or if they don’t, charged with trespass,” Durbin explained.

New lighting and fencing will also be installed, and Cortez Slack was introduced as the man who will oversee it all as the new “security coordinator”.

The initial investment for the program is said to be $400,000.

This all stems back to last summer when Durbin met with residents of the John DeShields Housing Development and the Working Against Violent Elements (WAVE) Task Force, a collaboration of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to discuss measures that could be taken in order to address violent crime in East St. Louis, Durbin’s home town.

“When I was at the DeShields housing project a woman came up to me with a little child and she said to me ‘Senator you’ve got to do something about this,” Durbin recalled. “They’re hiding the drugs in the telephone boxes here, the liquor store right across the street just stays open all night with people coming and going that are no good for us and for our children.”

Durbin used that story to renew his call for East St. Louis mayor Alvin Parks to enforce the 1 am cutoff for liquor store sales, something the Senator called a “contributing factor” in the growing number of violent crimes.

Parks, who was in attendance for the press conference but not invited to speak at the podium, said later that the new measures are a terrific starting point but he wishes some of those federal funds were coming more directly to his underfunded, understaffed and overworked police department.

“It really would have been good to get money for police officers to help patrol the areas in and around the Housing Authority properties,” Parks told KMOX News. “That’s what we’re missing.”

Watching it all unfold from across the street was longtime East St. Louis resident Gerald Harris.

He believes it shouldn’t have to cost a dime to start down the path toward a safer city — he believes it’s up to the people who live there.

“Don’t be afraid to tell (police) what you see,” he advised his fellow East St. Louisans. “Eventually what’s going to happen is those people are going to get caught.”

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