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STL public safety leaders address concerns over short-term rentals, unveil new activation to bring crowds downtown

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) – A new Cardinals baseball season kicked off with a busy weekend downtown, but public safety officials say it hasn’t led to a significant increase in crime downtown.

“We had a pretty large contingent of officers in visibility downtown over the weekend,” said Dr. Dan Isom, director of public safety for the city of St. Louis. “So I believe that while there were a few incidents, a lot of what could have happened was deterred by the presence we had downtown over the weekend.”

Still, some downtown residents say one particular issue remains unresolved when it comes to safety.

“This weekend, like so many recently, we were affected by parties at these short-term rentals…reckless driving…and noisy cars, brandishing guns and all sorts of things downtown- town,” said Les Sterman, a downtown resident. “We are very frustrated at this point.”

Sterman is also president of Greater Downtown St. Louis Citizens. The group shared several videos from the weekend on their social media pages, which show what they say were instances of reckless driving, heavy disturbances and the brandishing of weapons in the city centre. Sterman says residents believe this is because the city hasn’t taken a stronger stance against the use of downtown rental properties like Airbnb or other short-term rentals.

“Look, I mean having cops is great. I think it helps as a deterrent, but I think we have to deal with some of the underlying issues that bring certain activities downtown,” he said.

Today, Isom addressed residents’ concerns about short-term rentals during the weekly Downtown Public Engagement and Safety Briefing.

“There is still investigative work that we need to do. We think we might know of a particular group that rents these locations,” Isom said. “As you can imagine it is difficult to know in advance when an apartment or pitch is rented, but it is something that we are certainly working on to try to obtain more real time information on parties or anything happening in the apartments through Airbnb.”

While city leaders have said they are working on an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals, people like Sterman feel like the issue is dragging on.

“And we are always told, we are working on it, we are working on it. Well, can we see a draft prescription? We are working on it,” he said.

“We’re constantly reaching out to business owners, residents, to of course try to get them to watch over their own space, but it’s an ongoing challenge,” Isom said.

During today’s safety briefing, officials announced a new activation that they hope will bring more people to downtown in a positive way, especially to Washington Ave.

“When we asked the community about the types of activations they wanted to see, a street festival was the number one choice for downtown residents, employees and visitors,” said Sarah Arnosky Ko, vice- president of Greater St. Louis, Inc.

In partnership with downtown businesses including Pour Decisions (a mobile cocktail bar concept), Greater St. Louis, Inc. will host a street festival called ‘Social City.’

The event will take place Friday, April 29 from 4-9 p.m. on Washington Avenue between Tucker and 14th

“We will have live music with bands and DJs. We will have a one-of-a-kind art installation of local artists. We will have a relaxation corner with a more relaxed atmosphere. People can go out, find friends and colleagues,” said Arnosky Ko. “We will have street performers roaming the streets. We’ll have pop-up bars featuring classic and unique drinks, and more.

Greater St. Louis, Inc. says they will be working closely with SLMPD, the Downtown Community Improvement District, as well as private security to ensure the utmost security at this event.