Bel-Ridge and Pine Lawn are North County communites separated by a couple miles of Natural Bridge road and a chasm of economic disparity.
Pine Lawn's small tax base is eaten up providing basic city services -- and there's not much the village can do to lure new revenue providers to town.
Bel-Ridge is tucked up along I-170, not far from the airport. Retailers and gas stations line Natural Bridge from the interstate to Hanley Road. A shiny new municipal building stands as a testament to this burg's potential.
So what would bring these two communities together in the same story?
Their police chiefs... and the connection they share through a 19 year-old arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
In October, 2006, Prince Carl Jackson was pulled over at I-170 and Natural Bridge by a Bel-Ridge police officer. According to the arrest report, the officer noticed a strong smell of burnt marijuana once the window was rolled down -- so he asked to search the car. That search turned up a plastic bag filled with smaller plastic baggies of a "green vegetation." Let's just say that "vegetation" was not watercress.
Mr. Jackson was taken back to the Bel-Ridge police department and booked on the charge. His "vegetation" was shipped off to the St. Louis County crime lab where a chemical analysis came back positive for marijuana.
But Bel-Ridge police chief Gordon Brock deleted that charge from the regional crime database -- wiping Jackson's record clean.
Why would he do such a thing?
Here's where that connection comes in...
Prince Carl Jackson is the grandson of Steve Haynes. At the time of the arrest, Haynes was chief of police in neighboring Pine Lawn.
On his booking form, Jackson listed Haynes as his emergency contact. The phone number he put down for his grandfather? Pine Lawn police headquarters.
I spoke with Chief Haynes twice by telephone. The first time, he refused to deny asking Chief Brock to delete his grandson's arrest.
"You'd have to ask Bel-Ridge about that," he insisted.
"But you would know if you asked Brock to delete it," I replied.
"Talk to Bel-Ridge," he said before hanging up.
The second time we spoke, Haynes had more to say.
Haynes said he walked into the Bel-Ridge police department with his grandson and personally asked Brock to wipe the teenager's record clean.
Jackson's record was interfering with his ability to get a job, Haynes told me.
Brock complied, the record was erased, and everyone went about their business.
"I'd have to check."
We caught up with Chief Brock last Friday afternoon as he was walking into Bel-Ridge's municipal building.
Deleting arrest records is a rare thing, but it does happen on occasion. I assumed it would be something a police chief would remember.
When presented with a document that showed the date and time he logged in and wiped Jackson's record clean, Brock admitted deleting the arrest.
But had no idea why he would do such a thing.
"I'd have to check," was his response.
Did he do it at the request of Steve Haynes, I asked? Was this a favor for someone else with a badge?
With that, Brock pulled the cigarette from his mouth and looked into the camera.
He denied doing any such thing.