Columbia Police: Violent crime down 36 percent in 2008

Thursday, February 5, 2009 | 8:42 p.m. CST; updated 11:43 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 5, 2009

COLUMBIA — Interim Police Chief Tom Dresner said proactive police work helped decrease the number of violent crimes in Columbia last year.

Violent crime decreased 36 percent in 2008 compared with the previous year, according to the Columbia Police Department's 2008 Crime Statistics report, released Thursday.


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However, the poor economy, along with the city’s growing population, could be partly to blame for an 18.9 percent increase in property crimes, Dresner said.

“Columbia is Missouri’s fifth largest city, and has approximately 100,000 residents now,” he said.

Dresner sees the 2008 crime statistics as a mixture of good and bad news. “I would have liked to see a decrease in property crimes,” he said.

While burglary and larceny increased in 2008, auto theft decreased 33 percent. Dresner said the department will continue its Bait Car Program, an initiative started in 2007 aimed at using specially-outfitted vehicles to catch car thieves.

Along with the Bait Car Program, the department’s Street Crimes Unit plans to work to decrease the number of violent crimes in the upcoming year.

“We’re going to try to be everywhere the bad guys are,” Dresner said.

The department also plans to revamp the Neighborhood Watch program this year to notify the public of crimes through news releases and its Web site, Dresner said.

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Ray Shapiro February 6, 2009 | 2:03 a.m.

{“We’re going to try to be everywhere the bad guys are,” Dresner said.}
With the proliferaton of Section 8 housing, spreading throughout our town, I would guess that the bad guys are going to be finding new "home bases" and neighborly "easy pickings" everywhere.

(Report Comment)
Geraldine Slater February 7, 2009 | 8:31 a.m.

Now that's "Good News"! Increased interest and participation in Neighborhood Watch will certainly deter much of the criminal activity we now seem destined to experience. Thank you.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 7, 2009 | 12:38 p.m.

Dear Ms. Slater:
I agree that Neihborhood Watch activities may help, but it will be through people actually organizing and participating in these "watch, repond, report" activities.
Interest in a Neighborhood watch will accomplish little.
It amazes me how I have seen "neighborhood block parties" spring up in cities like New York and St. Louis while in a "supposedly friendly" community like Columbia, many people don't even associate with their neighbors.
If articles such as these, and crime on their streets, doesn't make it happen, then the subject of Neighborhod Watch will remain no more than a fleeting interest.
I'm beginning to think that this town is full of nothing but phonies and hypcrites.

(Report Comment)
Brett Knight February 8, 2009 | 5:09 p.m.

You would never know that crime was decreasing based on the number of crime stories the Missourian posts every day.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 8, 2009 | 5:28 p.m.

If you click on the top bar graph to the left of this article you will note that "property crimes" have increased by almost 20%.
(It is "violent crime" stats that show a decrease and that only includes the stats that make it to the graph.)
Violent crimes still happen, even if "stats" show an annual decrease.
There are also no graphs shown for drug crimes, illegal weapon sales, or any other type of crimes which occur.
(Including the crime of making a stupid comment, something we have all been guilty of from time to time.)

(Report Comment)
Janet Graves February 10, 2009 | 1:42 p.m.

Good to hear that violent crime in the city is down by more than one-third. But, is Neighborhood Watch really the solution to Columbia’s property crime problem? What happens when a perpetrator is apprehended? Perhaps stricter conviction penalties would deter future criminal activity.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 10, 2009 | 3:00 p.m.

{"Nationwide, the number of murders and violent crimes overall dropped last year after increasing in 2005 and 2006, according to annual data compiled by the FBI. Overall, however, murders have risen by about 8 percent between 2000 and 2007.
The number of young black men and teenagers who either killed or were killed in shootings has risen at an alarming rate since 2000, a new study shows."}
Regardless of what statistics show, many people in Columbia do not know that while this town has a Drug Court, Mental Health Court and Juvenille Court, we have no Family Court to help hold a parent/guardian accountable and responsible for the rehabilitation of their minor.
This dramatically limits wiser options for our Judges.
One way to help our local police, judicial system and community would be to advocate for the creation of Family Court.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand February 10, 2009 | 3:27 p.m.

Interesting, Ray. Any idea why we don't have a FC? And what are some MO cities that have them? I'd like to learn more about the impact they've had.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 10, 2009 | 4:16 p.m.

KCMO. 2002...
The Family Court offers an array services ranging from residential care facilities to mentoring programs.

"In addition to dealing with the cases in the system, we work to keep cases out of the system," Judge Nixon said.

Nixon volunteers time each week to a truancy program designed to encourage kids to attend school. The program, which has become a model for a national program, was started two years ago. Judge Nixon travels to Smith Hale Middle School once a week, meeting with kids who have had a history of truancy.

"Tuesdays at Smith Hale is the highlight of my week," he said. "My role there is to be a friend and a mentor."

Judge Ronald Holliger of the Missouri Court of Appeals, and Jackson County Judges Gregory Gillis and Marco Roldan participate in the program. The judges also meet with the families of the students, promoting communication.

"We try to develop their good qualities," Judge Nixon said. "They all have a lot of good qualities. If we can get them to like school, they won't drop out, they won't be running the streets, and they will really have a chance to make a living."

Judge Nixon said one of the most difficult things about his job is deciding whether or not a juvenile offender should be tried as an adult or tried in the Family Court. He said the difference between the two courts is not necessarily severity of the sentences, but the courts' respective philosophies.

"A lot of times a sentence can be more serious here in Family Court," Judge Nixon said. "But the juvenile court tries to treat and rehabilitate offenders, to make them good members of society. The focus of the circuit court is protection of society and punishment and retribution."

"I have a passion for hard kids," Judge Nixon said. He said he and his stepson were both 'hard kids;' kids who weren't necessarily in trouble, but are stubborn, independent and rebellious.

"I believe the ones with those characteristics are those who will change the world," he said. "The change can be good or it can be detrimental. These kids can go either way. We inspire them to go in a positive way and be productive and valuable members of society."

"I'd rather work with hard kids than easy ones any day," he continued. "We don't have to throw those kids away. We have a society that wants to throw away everybody who breaks a rule."

Judge Nixon hopes to work through his position as administrative judge to influence court policy to work to help kids, rather than give up on them.

"We can either help them reach their potential or throw them away," Judge Nixon said. "I believe in helping them reach their potential. That's really who I am."

Judge Nixon said there is another philosophy many in the Family Court share.

"We can all work together and eliminate red tape and focus on doing good things without being in competition with each other," he said.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 10, 2009 | 4:38 p.m.

One aspect of Family Court in St. Louis is the Family Support Team...
Excerpts from their brochure:
A Family Support Team Meeting is a
meeting in which the stage is set for working
together as a team to support families in
reaching goals.
The Family Support Team can consist of the
parents, custodians, relatives, attorneys,
Guardian Ad litem, Division of Family
Services caseworker, Deputy Juvenile Officer
and other relevant parties.
As a parent, what will I be
expected to do while my family’s
case is in the CA/N Investigation
· You will be expected to be present at all
court hearings.
· Cooperate with the Deputy Juvenile
Officer and the assigned Missouri
Division of Family Services case worker.
· You will be expected to cooperate with
and follow all plans developed to reunite
your family. These plans may include:
· Visitation
· Maintain adequate housing
· Substance abuse evaluation and/or
· Parenting classes
· Financial support for your child(ren)
· Other items deemed necessary
What happens at the Court
· Evidence is presented and testimony is
· The Judge makes a decision based upon
the evidence and testimony
· The case is dismissed or a decision is
made regarding your child(ren)’s
· A Court ordered plan is put into place
(How many Columbia parents/guardians are expected to attend parenting classes by our local "Juvie" Court?)

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 10, 2009 | 6:01 p.m.

Also from St. Louis:
(Click "Report Card" feature}
When we ask citizens what they want to accomplish with their justice system the message is clear and consistent.
• They want the justice system to further community safety;
• They want victims of crime to receive justice;
• They want offenders to be accountable for their behavior;
• They want offenders to cease their criminal activity and
become responsible and productive citizens, and
• They want children to have safe and permanent homes.
The delinquency offense most frequently
referred to the Family Court is
stealing under $500. The only felony
offense in the top five offenses is
Tampering 1st (driving a stolen car).
Tampering 2nd (riding in a stolen car)
is a misdemeanor.
Most Frequent Offenses
Referred to the Family
1 - Stealing Under $500
2 - Assault 3rd
3 - Property Damage 2nd
4 - Tampering 1st
5 - Tampering 2nd
RESTITUTION: Crime victims are
clear about their expectations of
offenders. Offenders should be
expected to pay back for the harm
they have caused. In the year
2007, offenders were ordered to
pay $116,222 in restitution to victims.
The actual amount of restitution
paid during the year was
Restitution to Victims
Ordered: $116,222
Paid: $104,061
% Ordered that was paid: 90%
supervision receive curfew checks by
Deputy Juvenile Officers and Police
Officers through the Nightwatch Program.
From October 2006 through
September 2007, juveniles were home
for curfew 75 percent of the times
that they were visited.
Nightwatch Average
Compliance Rate
2006-2007: 75%
(Click on Comprehensive Study Unit)
(Parental Responsibility)
♦You will be expected to be present at all court hearings and
to bring the child if (s)he is in your physical custody;
♦Cooperate with the Deputy Juvenile Officer by answering
all questions truthfully and to the best of your ability;
♦You will be expected to cooperate with and follow all orders
issued by this court regarding you and your child.
♦If the juvenile is adjudicated, and in accordance with the
Parental Responsibility Section of the laws of the State of
Missouri (Chapter 211.134 R.S.Mo.), you may be
required to:
♦Attend counseling sessions;
♦Participate in any institutional treatment program,
including meetings at the institution when your child is

(Report Comment)

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