Five Ideas: How can crime be curbed at Douglass Park?

Saturday, November 8, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:02 p.m. CST, Saturday, November 8, 2008

Crime in Douglass Park

The suspect identified in a homicide that took place at Douglass Park on Tuesday turned himself in this week. The man was arrested in connection with the killing of Miles Heard, who was shot in the chest and the thigh in the Douglass Park parking lot and died later at the hospital.

It's not an unfamiliar tale to those familiar with the park's recent history.  Besides this most recent shooting, there were drug arrests on June 30, a fight that broke out June 12, an assault with a knife that was reported on May 23 and another shooting that took place on April 16. It's enough to make the 8 acres of recreational space a high-profile crime location in the minds of many Columbians.

Yet, as a place for people of all ages to gather, nothing in the way the park was built inspires crime. You can't blame the swing sets, the basketball courts or the monkey bars for what transpires at 400 N. Providence Road.  With the recent homicide, Columbia's fifth murder in 2008, the focus is back on this central city gathering spot.  Although the violent crime rate has decreased in Columbia, the Columbia Police Department created the Street Crimes Unit this past summer to target "career criminals," according to a Missourian article.

What else can be done to increase security at Douglass Park?

So much for bellwether status

Instead of proclaiming the winner in this year's presidential election, Missouri acted more like the black sheep rather than the bellwether compared to other key battleground states.

Claiming the title "The bellwether state of the Midwest," Missouri has picked the president-elect for the better part of half a century up until this election, which showed John McCain over Barack Obama by an unofficial margin of about 5,000 votes in the swing state.  Although most news outlets have called Missouri for McCain, it is still an unofficial prediction. This was the first time in more than a century that a Democrat has won the presidency without winning Missouri.

In fact, Missouri was the only battleground state in a list of five states that also included Florida, Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio appeared to vote for the Republican ticket.

In national elections, is Missouri moving toward the red rather than middle-of-the-road purple?

Bipartisan state government?

In a landslide victory, Democrat Jay Nixon was elected governor of Missouri in a decision that might convey citizens' distrust and disillusionment with the Republican Party as a whole, if it weren't for the state choosing a Republican lieutenant governor with Peter Kinder's victory over Democrat Sam Page.

It could lead to a tipping of the balance on either compromise and bipartisan participation or further stalemate and party division in state government. There hasn't been a bipartisan combination of governor and lieutenant governor in Missouri since Mel Carnahan, a Democrat, and John Ashcroft, a Republican, were elected in 1989.

In the legislative branch of Missouri state government, the General Assembly is still very Republican in both the state Senate and House of Representatives. But at least in the immediate aftermath of the election, state officials are sounding a bipartisan tone, as evidenced in meetings Thursday in Jefferson City.

Do you think this could be an opportunity for more bipartisan cooperation, or will it cause more turf wars?

Low turnout for superintendent search

Despite high turnout for the controversial third high school location, parents and citizens didn't show up when it came down to selecting a new superintendent for Columbia Public Schools.

At a superintendent search forum Wednesday, the school board and administration didn't just outnumber the public attendants, they were the only ones there. With a position as important as school superintendent under consideration, it's surprising that the number of people actively interested is so much smaller than the number of people who came out to comment when the school board made a controversial move to pick a location for the third high school. 

Does there need to be a problem for people to care? Or, as the school board and administrative staff worry, are they the ones to blame for the lack of public participation? The indirect effect of no one showing up is no one will be aware if something is wrong until it affects them or their children personally. At that point, the situation is more difficult to change.

What could the school district do to encourage people to participate in the process of selecting a superintendent?

Relationship reporting

It's not the first time the Missourian wrote about a high-profile couple, but something was different about a story Friday that focused on MU quarterback Chase Daniel's girlfriend, Blaire Vandiver. 

Many readers critiqued the article for being fluff, being sexist or being just plain bad journalism. Others said the Missourian should dedicate its resources to more investigative stories.

Was the relationship of a high-profile college couple newsworthy? The answer is maybe. In some arguments, citizens were outraged that the story, which included the couple's first date and how their relationship developed, could have made it on the front page of the Web site. Others read the entire article start to finish, engaged with the insights into a person they have only seen in the shadow of a high-profile football player.

In 2006, The Missourian published a feature article about football coach Gary Pinkel's wife, Vicki Pinkel.  It was well liked and received praise from many citizens who were curious about Vicki Pinkel's life outside of football. It could be a sign of ageism that no one challenged an article about the spouse of a high-profile football coach but were in an uproar about a feature on a young high-profile couple. One noticeable difference is that in the article about Vandiver, her relationship to Daniel is essential to the content of the story, whereas the story about Pinkel's wife focused more on her own achievements as a mother, outside of her husband's status.

What do you think about the decision to run a story about a college-aged, high-profile relationship?

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Charles Dudley Jr November 10, 2008 | 10:47 a.m.

In response to "Crime In Douglas Park".

Just short of 8 foot high chain link fencing topped by razor wire and only two entrances going in or out manned by police with portable metal detectors and drug/bomb sniffing dogs where the park is only open 8 am until 5 pm each day what really can be done if the City Council,local religious leaders,parents,area home owners/renters and the CPD cannot get a handle on it now?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr November 12, 2008 | 11:28 a.m.

Anybody else got any ideas what to do about Douglas Park just short of a Caterpillar D-10 Bulldozering and expanding Douglas School for problem kids that seem to be multiplying yearly in the CPS system?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand November 12, 2008 | 11:56 a.m.

It's not just Douglass Park that needs to be cleaned up. It's that whole area from Forest to Ash.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr November 12, 2008 | 2:28 p.m.

So you suggest they move everybody out of the area and spread them and their crime all over the city even more?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand November 12, 2008 | 2:49 p.m.

No, I want the troublemakers out of Columbia, period. Time to gentrify that area. Let them move to Independence or Raytown.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz November 12, 2008 | 2:54 p.m.

Or prison.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand November 12, 2008 | 3:02 p.m.

Or the chair. No point in keeping repeat felons around.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 12, 2008 | 3:19 p.m.

Gerbe's, off Broadway, had to get an on-premises security guard when the "North of Broadway" Knowles closed down and the booze stealing/food stealing/criminals came over. Gerbes on Paris now has a "security guard" on premises as the "quality of shoppers" has changed. In fact, there's now a CPD "kiosk" in the parking lot, off to the side.
Maybe the cops can set up a "mini-shop" at Douglass or some other meaningful law enforcer/watcher/guard and arrest any violators of any infraction. The cash flow from these arrests can keep the attorney industry, penal system and others in the green and we could even raise the taxes of those people who live in high crime areas as a "special" users tax. We should also not give Douglass "pool" users a signifant break in their "admission" price until "their" community helps in police enforcement with their own "neighborhood" watch. It seems that the Douglass Park crowd tends to get too much of a "free" ride and tends to get a "free-pass" for neglect and bad behavior."

(Report Comment)

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