ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- East St. Louis is an area that over the years has become known for violent crime. A common thread, law enforcement found, was that most of it was happening in public housing.
When the East St. Louis Housing Authority security force was brought in they say the area was inundated with people who didn't live in the complexes and were looking for illegal activity. In the last three years more than 600 people have been placed on the banned and barred list for the communities.
More than 500 prosecutions have stemmed from the East St. Louis banned and barred list, most of them criminal trespassing charges.
“How do you eat an elephant? You just eat it one bite at a time and that's what we're doing here,” said Brendan Kelly, St. Clair County State’s Attorney. “It's a preventative approach. If we can get them on this lower level with something as simple as a trespassing ticket hopefully that will go a long way to preventing something more serious like a robbery, or a shooting or a very serious drug offense.”
Assault, armed robbery, murders, and car thefts are all down dramatically since the eleven officers on the force were put into place.
“We've seen arrests go down, we've seen activity in our complexes go down,” said Cortez Slack, with the Housing Authority. “East St. Louis doesn't receive as many calls for service as they used to before we came on board. So we've seen a reduction across the board.”
Officers admit when the state and federal initiative first put them into place, they got pushback from the community, but now they say they appreciate the added security.
“They patrol the area like regular polices do and if they see something going on wrong they're going to stop. They're going to say something to you,” Mary Gardner, an East St. Louis resident said.
Funding for the extra officers came from a $200,000 federal grant.