Subway companies and community leaders are looking for new tools to combat smash-and-grab incidents

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) — The images of broken windows and paneled storefronts have become a focal point for businesses throughout the St. Louis subway in the last month.

“We’re all struggling to stay alive and they’re after us,” said Ken Fowler, operations manager of Bella Bridesmaids, a boutique store that opened just a few weeks ago in the Central West End.

While Fowler hasn’t seen any recent burglary attempts, he says the concern has crossed the minds of many business owners.

“Throwing rocks through the front window, walking in, stealing goods, damaging stores and businesses and that’s why we’re looking for products that help businesses,” said Jim Whyte, executive director of the Central West End Neighborhood Security Initiative.

There have been around 30 attempted break-ins across the city in recent months. As police continue to search for up to three groups of people believed to be working across the city damaging business property, companies tell News 4 they want to do whatever it takes to stop thieves.

“We’re all about delaying, delaying, delaying,” said Nate McVicker.

McVicker is a veteran police officer and partner with Safe Haven Defense. The Phoenix, Arizona-based company was invited by the Central West End Neighborhood Security Initiative to demonstrate its laminate film product, which is more impenetrable and resilient than the industry-standard 8-millimeter laminate that some companies may already be using to protect doors and doors use window before shattering. This laminate can be around 30 millimeters thick and could give companies the upper hand.

“We offer an impact resistant film, we offer a scratch resistant film, and then we offer a bulletproof film,” McVicker said. “If a window with our laminate on it is shattered, the laminate is still intact. So you don’t have to come out in the middle of the night and board up your windows. You can come out the next day. Of course the window needs to be replaced, but it will prevent this criminal from gaining access to your property.”

Safe Haven Defense demonstrated to business owners and community leaders the difference between the two types of film and how much more resilient their film is when punctured by a rock or even the hard force of a baseball bat.

“You don’t see that on TV. It’s not imaginary. It’s not fake, it’s real, and that’s why I think business owners want to see it,” said Abdul Abdullah, Executive Director, Park Central Development.

Fowler says he’s considering putting on his own company’s exterior.

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

News 4 spoke to District 17 Councilwoman Tina Pihl, who also wanted to see how this device could help businesses in her community.

“It’s an unfortunate problem we have,” Pihl said. “And it’s great that this company invented this product that we can use to mitigate the situation, and we didn’t have anything to defend ourselves before, so these companies have an opportunity to mitigate the problem and defend themselves.”

Park Central Development, working with 13 neighborhood counties across the city, will help businesses foot the bill if they want that protection.

“We’ve actually committed $50,000 to the Grove business district through their board of directors to make this available to businesses [to have]’ said Abdullah. “So we’re going to give each company up to $2,500 for their expenses installing this glass in their company.”

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

“Where there isn’t any type of funding to help many Black and Brown owned businesses and women in the Delmar Corridor access some of that, too,” Abdullah said.

Visit Park Central’s development website for more information on how companies can apply for the program.

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