Columbia City Council candidates express views on crime

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 9:09 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 17, 2009

COLUMBIA – The problem of tackling crime in Columbia requires both a preventative defense and a tenacious offense, according to City Council candidates.

In 2008, violent crimes decreased by 36 percent while property crimes rose by 18.9 percent, according to a previous Missourian article. Sixth Ward council candidates, like many others, blame the harsh economy for the rise in property crimes.

Sixth Ward candidate Rod Robison has said at a number of public forums that he wants to bring “balance” – his one-word campaign slogan – to Columbia and wants to curb crime by working to improve the economy. In order to do that, Robison said Columbia needs to focus on crime prevention by creating better alternatives for those inclined towards criminal activity.

“It’s possibly more of the disadvantaged or at-risk kids that need to see some hope,” Robison said. “We have to get those kids to see an alternative. If they know they can go out and make their own money, they won’t go out to steal yours.”

Robison’s opponent and Sixth Ward incumbent Barbara Hoppe had a similar view on the economy’s impact on crime rates, but Hoppe said the growth management plan that she and the city have been working on will answer many of the problems in Columbia — including crime — by helping to create a more concentrated and planned city that would be easier to manage and police.

“Once we have a growth management plan, we can create incentives for people to develop in areas where there is already infrastructure," Hoppe said. "When you do this, you help solve a lot of problems like crime. I think that is the big key. Growing in a more concentrated and planned way is what we need to work on, and that hits everything. That's an important piece of what we are doing and none of the other candidates have talked about it because they know nothing about it.”

Second Ward candidates, while not hesitant to pin part of the blame on the economy, focused on crime prevention techniques at the community level that have been favored by candidates in both wards.

"Expand neighborhood watch training,” Second Ward Candidate Allan Sharrock said. “My truck has been broken into three times since I have moved here. … Everybody’s gotta step up and look out for each other.”

Sharrock’s opponent, Jason Thornhill, supports youth offender prevention programs and finding jobs for the criminally inclined to raise “esteem." Thornhill also proposed the adoption of a law that would prevent landlords from renting to repeat criminal offenders. He said he understood such a proposal could be controversial, but he thinks the strategy could be effective.

“If they can’t live here, they probably won’t stay here,” Thornhill said. “We need to try to figure out how to keep these folks from infiltrating neighborhoods and bringing them down.”

In addition to utilizing preventative measures, each candidate expressed profuse support for the Police Department and the new police chief, Kenneth Burton, as he settles into his new setting in April.

“I’m excited about this new police chief,” Robison said. “There’s only so much we can do. We have to let this man get out there. … We have to give him some leeway and all the support we can.”

Both Second Ward candidates echoed their support of the Police Department and said they do not want its budget to be cut. In Sharrock’s case, he would want to see the budget increase and would consider constructing a second police station.

“All cities, when they hit a certain number, they have to have a second police station,” Sharrock previously told the Missourian. He also said that he would follow the chief’s recommendations on whether or not to pursue the idea further.

Hoppe said that she has continuously shown support for the Police Department through the council’s efforts, including helping to maintain a number of officers that is proportional to the city’s population and making recommendations to create a more efficient police force.

“It’s not just the number of police you have, but how you use them,” Hoppe said. “They restructured, so now they always have an experienced officer with an inexperienced officer. There were a whole series of recommendations that have been made in response to that.”

The League of Women Voters is holding a public forum for both the Second and Sixth Ward candidates, as well as the school board candidates, at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Friends Room at the Columbia Public Library, 100 W. Broadway.

Missourian reporter Andrew Van Dam contributed to this report.

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Ayn Rand March 17, 2009 | 6:51 a.m.

"If they know they can go out and make their own money, they won’t go out to steal yours.”

Now if they know that they can make a few hundred bucks for a couple of hours of dealing or stealing, why would they want to put in 40 hours at an entry-level job and work their way up or use it to pay for college or trade school?

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin March 17, 2009 | 3:42 p.m.

6th Ward city council candidate Rod Robison and incumbent councilwoman Barbara Hoppe answered crime-related questions in our survey:

QUESTION 1 -- What role do you think our courts should play in our struggle with crime? What role do you think local landlords should play in our struggle with crime? How can police be expected to cope if courts and landlords -- if the entire community for that matter -- doesn't also partake in the process?


Obviously, the courts play a crucial role in crime prevention. The problem, as I see it, is that there are different agencies dealing with different aspects of crime. The police apprehend alleged criminals, the court system tries, convicts and determines sentencing, then the Department of Corrections or Probation and Parole Department enforce the punishment.

It appears, from your case studies that people are falling through the cracks.

My top priority for the sixth ward comes down on the side of apprehension and prevention. I want to fully fund the Columbia Police Department in their endeavors to crack down on violent crime and property crimes in our neighborhoods.

QUESTION 2 -- If a judge sentences an offender to "home detention" and a landlord is willing to rent to that offender, aren't our neighborhoods in danger of becoming substitute jails? What impact do you think the presence of criminal offenders has on a neighborhood and especially, the children in it?


While it may seem to many Columbia residents that landlords have a duty to make sure their tenants are law-abiding, coming up with a mechanism to ensure compliance would be difficult. And I’m not sure its even legal.

Property owners, like landlords, have to follow certain protocols when leasing or renting to prospective tenants and a criminal background check is not required. Also, if a landlord leases to someone without a criminal record, then that person breaks the law, it doesn’t void the lease.

QUESTION 3 -- What can you, as a newly-elected school board member or city council person, do to encourage our judges, prosecutors, and landlords to reduce crime and keep violent offenders off the street?


As the sixth ward city council member, I would first acquaint myself with all the stakeholders in the process.

Perhaps setting up a community task force, made up of judges, probation and parole officials, landlords, educators, youth group leaders, etc. would lead to a better understanding of the problem and how to solve it.


Barbara is currently in Detroit visiting her gravely ill mother at the hospital. Her mother is 93 and in very serious condition and is not expected to live long. She hopes to be back in Columbia for the League of Women Voters forum on Thursday.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin March 17, 2009 | 3:47 p.m.

2nd Ward Council candidates Jason Thornhill and Allan Sharrock answered the same questions on crime. For their answers, visit this link:

(Report Comment)

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