Some of the police cars that were equipped the radios. The department bought these Plymouths in August 1931. Four years later, the department began upgrading cars with two-way radios, allowing motor officers to respond by radio. Until then, they had to pull over at one of the police telephone call boxes scattered across the city. The large antennae necessary for the system hadn’t yet been installed on these cars. Post-Dispatch file photo
ST. LOUIS • The crackling broadcast warned of a prowler in the basement at 1105 Chouteau Avenue. Officers in a car on the 12th Street viaduct sped toward the scene one block away.
They quickly nabbed John Acosta, 33, with an armload of stolen lead pipe. The suspect drew six months in the city workhouse.
Acosta’s arrest on Aug. 12, 1930, earned him the dubious honor of being the first lawbreaker undone by the St. Louis Police Department’s original radio system, which had gone on the air that day. About one-half of the department’s patrol vehicles, known as “scout cars,” were equipped with radio receivers.
The system operated like the AM station it was. Police radio KGPC broadcast from headquarters at 12th (now Tucker) Boulevard and Clark Street. Because anybody with an ordinary radio could listen, the frequency became a popular draw for curious citizens, criminals and personal-injury lawyers.
St. Louis followed Chicago, Detroit and a few other cities in building a police radio system. The $45,000 cost included the transmitter, tower, broadcast booth and the receivers that were bolted onto the cabin ceilings of 72 police cars and vans.
Police Chief Joseph Gerk said radio promised to give his officers a critical new jump on criminals, who had become adept at getaways in stolen cars.
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