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Pivotal figure during Ferguson protests hired to revitalize downtown St. Louis



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    ST. LOUIS, MO (KMOV) — Seven years after the Ferguson protests, the man considered a pivotal figure in stabilizing the situation is now being tapped for a new task in St. Louis City.

“We’re going to take ownership back of our downtown area. We’re going to come back here and enjoy this place. We’re gonna work here,” Ron Johnson said.

Johnson, an ex-state trooper, notable for calming Ferguson protests, is now working with the Community Improvement District (CID) to ensure safety, security and stability in downtown St. Louis. For years, CID has been involved in the community and economic development downtown. CID board members tell News 4 it was time for a change. That’s why Johnson was brought in.

“We’re talking about some different traffic solutions down here. Our streets are blocked off, we have to open up our streets so people can enjoy and people can go to their condo, drive up and have guests,” Johnson explained.

Johnson says he has short-term and long-term solutions. Some that will take time, and collaboration between residents, business owners, city leaders and CID. Residents say CID has been trying to change downtown for years and it hasn’t worked. They tell News 4 that the crime has just gotten worse.

“We really have two downtowns. The downtown during the day which is run and it’s safe and we enjoy being here, but then there’s the downtown at night, particularly late at night,” Les Sterman said.

Sterman moved downtown nearly two decades ago to be a part of its rebuilding and revitalization. He says the crime has progressively gotten worse and over the last few years, he’s felt more and more unsafe.

“More clubs, more disruptive activity. We’ve heard gunfire over the last couple of years we’ve never heard before. Shell casings on the street, that sort of thing,” Sterman explained.

Sterman isn’t the only resident who says things are out of hand.

“Things have changed, not for the better,” David Sosne said.

Sosne has lived downtown for the last seven years. He says he still feels safe but has noticed the crime increasing across the area. Business owners News 4 talked to Tuesday also said they’re feeling the effects of increased crime. Just last month, suspects broke into a technology store on Washington Avenue, stealing thousands of dollars in product, and leaving even more in damage. Johnson believes he can change this, but residents have doubts.

“They [CID] have been preaching the mantra of ‘clean and safe’ for years, and they just haven’t done it,” Sterman said.

Other residents say they’re willing to give Johnson a shot.

“I think it’s a positive development. I don’t know what his ideas are, but I think someone like that is absolutely essential,” Sosne said.

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