Metro businesses, community leaders look at new tools to combat smash-and-grab incidents

Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 6:53 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The images of broken windows, and cased storefronts have become a focal point for businesses across the St. Louis metro in the last month.

“We’re all fighting to stay alive and they’re targeting us,” said Ken Fowler, Director of Operations for Bella Bridesmaids, a boutique store that just opened in the Central West End a few weeks ago.

While Fowler has not experienced any recent smash-and-grab attempts, he says the concern has been crossing a lot of business owners’ minds.

“Throwing rocks through the front window, going in, stealing merchandise, damaging the stores and businesses and so we’re looking for products that would help businesses,” said Jim Whyte, Executive Director for the Central West End Neighborhood Security Initiative.

There have been around 30 smash-and-grab attempts in the last month throughout the city. As police continue to search for as many as three groups of people believed to be working across the city to damage business property, businesses tell News 4 they want to do what it takes to slow thieves in their tracks.

“Our point is to delay, delay, delay,” said Nate McVicker.

McVicker is a veteran police officer and partner with Safe Haven Defense. The company, based out of Phoenix, Arizona, was invited by the Central West End Neighborhood Security Initiative to demonstrate their laminate film product, which is more impenetrable and resistant than the industry standard 8 millimeters laminate some businesses may already be using to protect doors and windows from shattering. This laminate can be around 30 millimeters thick and could give businesses the upper hand.

“We offer a smash resistant film, we offer a riot resistant film, and then a bullet resistant film,” said McVicker. “If a window were to be shattered with our laminate on there, the laminate is still going to stay intact. So, you don’t have to in the middle of the night come out and board up your windows. You can come out the next day. Of course, the window is going to have to be replaced, but it’s going to prevent that criminal from gaining access to your property.”

Safe Haven Defense demonstrated to business owners and community leaders the difference between the two types of films, showing how much more resistant their film is to being broken through by a rock or even the hard force of a baseball bat.

“It’s not something you see on tv. It’s not imaginary. It’s not fake, it’s real, and so I think that that’s something that business owners want to see,” said Abdul Abdullah, Executive Director, Park Central Development.

Fowler says it is something he is considering putting on the exterior of his own business.

“It was very impressive,” he said. “If I can team up with my neighbors and make it to where any criminals might realize, all the businesses in the Central West End are protected by this film so there’s no sense in even trying.”

News 4 spoke with 17th ward Alderwoman Tina Pihl who also wanted to see how this device could help the businesses in her community.

“This is an unfortunate problem that we have,” said Pihl. “And it is great that this company has invented this product that we can mitigate the situation, and we didn’t have anything before in terms of defending ourselves, so these businesses will have an opportunity to be able to mitigate the problem, defend themselves.”

Park Central Development, which works with 13 neighborhood districts across the city, will be helping businesses foot the bill if they want this protection.

“We actually allocated in the grove commercial district $50,000 dollars through the board that we have there in order to make this available for businesses [to have],” said Abdullah. “So, we’re going to give each business up to 2,500 dollars towards their expenses for this glass to install in their business.”

They’re also working to fund other neighborhoods, like the Central West End and businesses north of Delmar.

“Where there’s not any type of funding to assist to help a lot of the black and brown and female owned businesses within the Delmar corridor to access some of this as well.” Said Abdullah.

More information on how businesses can apply for the program can be found on Park Central’s development website.