ST. LOUIS - A St. Louis alderman believes the latest vandalism in his ward is a sign of a much larger problem in the city.
Nichola Eldridge, Andrew Love and Charles Gray are charged with stealing and property damage. According to charging documents, on Monday a neighbor watched and reported to police as the three suspects hooked a chain to their truck, then to a panel of windows two stories high. They drove off, ripping the entire panel of windows from the side of Stowe School located at 5750 Lotus Avenue.
Alderman Jeffrey Boyd represents Ward 22 where the school is located. When he learned of the incident, he expressed sadness and disappointment.
"This is a school that I would hope one day would reopen, but the longer these buildings sit abandoned, the more opportunities exist for people to do what they did," said Alderman Boyd. "As long as we continue to have hundreds of vacant buildings, especially like Stowe School, you know it`s just going to be a haven for people to do bad behavior," he added.
Boyd believes the root of the problem is people dealing with social issues, like drug dependency. He said some people will vandalize empty homes or buildings to steal precious metals from pipes, window frames, even doorknobs for scrap. When that happens, they'll cause more damage than is usually worth it to fix, leading property owners and landlords to abandon their properties.
Court documents state that the windows taken from Stowe School were worth about $750 and the damage caused was in excess of $750.
"We must do a better job at securing these buildings, number one and finding developers, giving them the right incentives to come in and redevelop our neighborhoods," Boyd said, otherwise he fears buildings like Stowe will continue to wither away month after month. He believes development with not only improve property values and curb crime but will result in more funding for police and safety initiatives as well as for schools.
"We deserve better than what we have and every day is an opportunity to make us greater than we were yesterday," He added.
Stowe School is still owned by the St. Louis Public School District. It was built in 1967 and closed in 1991. Walker Gaffney, St. Louis Public School's Real Estate Director said over the years, some developers have expressed interest in the building but the deals fell through for various financial reasons.