City Council discusses graffiti, crime and rental housing

Monday, June 1, 2009 | 8:46 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The City Council discussed ways to combat graffiti as well as a project about rental properties at its pre-council meeting Monday night.

City Counselor Fred Boeckman wrote a graffiti ordinance for the city based on the Washington, D.C., model. He said the D.C. model had to do with procedures for dealing with the nuisance.

The ordinance proposed three ways to remove graffiti: have the person responsible for putting up the graffiti remove it, have the city provide removal or have the property owner remove the graffiti.

Boeckman said people who put up graffiti are hardly ever caught, which could make the first option difficult.

The council also discussed procedures for making property owners remove the graffiti, including sending the owner an initial notice of a time when the graffiti removal needs to be started and when it needs to be completed.

In addition to discussing graffiti removal, the council discussed possible funding ideas for the ordinance, including fining those caught putting up graffiti.

"If you're just relying on fines to fund it, it's never going to get funded," Boeckman said.

Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade suggested using work teams from the Boone County Jail to help clean up the graffiti. He said he wanted the idea looked into, but it would require careful supervision.

Mayor Darwin Hindman said that would be a decision for the courts, not for the City Council. The council plans to discuss the issue further.

In addition to discussing the graffiti ordinance, City Council members listened to a presentation about mapping rental properties done by three MU senior geography students as part of their capstone.

The students, Curtis Edwards, Neil Hebrank and Ryan Luff, looked at crime statistics, bus routes, utility or rental assistance, and utility and rental assistance as part of their study.

They found 75 percent of the rental properties were inside the bus routes, but that was not much of the ridership.

The students found that areas of intensity for crime rates appear to be around Tiger Village and Columbia Square, Whitegate Apartments and the Garth-Worley area. They also found there was a low correlation between crime and rental housing receiving Section 8 rental assistance.

The project aimed to encourage MU to become more engaged in the community. The students gave the city all of their findings from the study, which was restricted to city limits to prevent skewing the data.

From the study, the students were able to propose future projects for the city to investigate. The council thanked the students for submitting the study.

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Ray Shapiro June 1, 2009 | 9:26 p.m.

("The students found that areas of intensity for crime rates appear to be around Tiger Village and Columbia Square, Whitegate Apartments and the Garth-Worley area. They also found there was a low correlation between crime and rental housing receiving Section 8 rental assistance.")
1. Why is CPD giving "the District" priority?
2. Is there a correlation? If so, what is it?
3. Who checks on the students' accuracy?
Crimes reported in Columbia from Jan. 1, 2009, to March 29, 2009, compiled from Uniform Crime Report data released by the Columbia Police Department.

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A Year’s Worth of Headlines (2008)
Douglass Park has been in the news this year. A shooting April 16 injured two men. An 18-year-old man and a 25-year-old man sustained gun shot wounds in the leg and ankle, respectively.
A June 12 stabbing sent two men to the hospital. The police found a broken bottle and fresh blood under the larger shelter near Rogers Street. That same night, a fight broke out among minors on the corner of Ninth and Walnut streets. The disturbance eventually grew into a crowd of 100 to 150 people and moved behind Douglass High School before police were able to disperse it. Police heard but could not confirm that someone was carrying a gun. In a rare move, the park was shut down for the rest of the evening.
On June 30, officers patrolling the area approached a vehicle in the small parking lot abutting Rogers Street. The smell of marijuana prompted a search that yielded a few grams of crack cocaine, prescription pills and a .38-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Besides issuing felony possession charges, the police discovered that three of the four vehicle occupants had outstanding warrants.
Most recently, in the early afternoon of Nov. 4, two men in a black Chevrolet Malibu pulled into Douglass Park’s smaller parking lot. Three independent witnesses say Grady F. Dortch Jr., 28, exited the vehicle and fired a small caliber handgun at Miles Heard, 28. Heard died shortly after arriving at University Hospital from bullet wounds in the right side of his chest and left thigh. Dortch was arrested for first-degree murder and armed criminal action after turning himself in a day later.
With the appearance of crack cocaine. An increase in drug activity and related violence led the police chief at the time, William Dye, to form a task force in the First Ward. “Douglass Park has been categorically grouped with Section 8 housing, poverty, drugs and crime.”
Because people fear confronting suspicious behavior in the park, the community remains silent, and little is accomplished.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 2, 2009 | 10:11 a.m.

>>> The students found that areas of intensity for crime rates appear to be around Tiger Village and Columbia Square, Whitegate Apartments and the Garth-Worley area. They also found there was a low correlation between crime and rental housing receiving Section 8 rental assistance. <<<

The problem is not some of the Section 8 renters themselves it is those who either live part time or visit those Section 8 renters part time and bring their crime sprees with them as they move about from home to home.

MU Students should learn to dig deeper into this issue as a whole instead of just reading local statistics look at the national statistics too.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 2, 2009 | 12:29 p.m.

Chuck, how do you propose the students dig deeper without you being able to prove your premise that crime is caused by visitors to those residences? Local statistics don't necessarily have to follow national trends, sorry if that doesn't meet with your and Ray's preconceptions.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro June 2, 2009 | 1:27 p.m.

("The students found that areas of intensity for crime rates appear to be around Tiger Village and Columbia Square, Whitegate Apartments and the Garth-Worley area. They also found there was a low correlation between crime and rental housing receiving Section 8 rental assistance.")
The words "appear" and "low correlation" leads me to view this report as inconclusive.
I stand by my original post and sources.
I wonder if the students also examined the "crime" of decreased property values to the neighbors' homes, increased homes going up for sale and having difficulty selling these homes. There's also the "crime" of increased loud bass playing gangsta' rap music emanating from the out-of town license plated cars which suddenly show up in previously quite, safe neighborhoods? And what about the "crime" of forcing a grocery store, such as Gerbes, to feel the need to suddenly hire a security guard to welcome our "new neighbors" who displace those who have moved to "the suburbs" of Columbia.
The dynamics in Columbia, with the proliferation of Section 8 and how it impacts neighborhoods, are no different then the dynamics that have happened elsewhere.
Why would anyone think that we were somehow "special" or "immune" to urban blight?
I guess the City Council is just going to downplay all this for PR and political reasons.
Most people know better.
Our city leaders choose not to address this head-on.
Tolerance breeds contempt.
Crime will continue to flourish.
You know what. I won't blame the proliferation of section 8.
I'll just blame the enablers.
Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Thank you City Council.
Thank you Mr. Watkins.
Thank you students.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 2, 2009 | 1:40 p.m.

I agree with ray totally. John as ray said plainly why should Columbia be any different by any means than say any other city.

Stop trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the community it just makes you look bad.

Complacency is what has lead to this issue constantly being debated on these and other like blogs and forum boards across our entire nation.

(Report Comment)
troy g June 2, 2009 | 3:34 p.m.

Thanks John S for posting as its seems the other are in a category of people who do not understand the research process, the scope of the study (did you guys read the study or just this article), or much about academia at all. Each point you guys said are valid and seem to make sense. But they are also seperate research studies on their own, and were not indcluded in the scope of their research. It would be unreliable to try to answer or figure all of those questions in one single study conducted by students with no or minimal funding.

If you guys want to sound off on COMo politics and crime etc thats fine, but students who gave their due diligence offering their support and work for the city shouldn't be disregarded as inaccurate. Read their entire study before you come to that conclusion. And instead of complaining about your concerns or reciting some article from national statistics to sound smart, make your own study an enlighten us then.

(Report Comment)
Libby Suel June 2, 2009 | 3:34 p.m.

I am saddened to see that not everyone understands what research is.... Mr. Shapiro, the students merely presented facts. They did not make conclusive arguments nor suggestions as to what policy should be.

Each of the questions you've posed are entirely new research studies. It seems you might be taking something about this personally.

As for who checks on the accuracy... they do have professors, you know. Not to mention spreadsheets and data to back up their charts and maps. As geography students, that is what they focused on for their service-learning project. The facts are handed over to the city to do with it what they will...including perhaps, additional research. Maybe you should head up an additional research team?

You act as if these students were in denial about something (snidely thanking them for taking part in a cover-up??? odd)... no one thinks Columbia is immune to urban blight. In fact, the findings basically show how blighted some areas ARE. But the fact remains that there WASN'T much correlation between Section 8 housing and crime. Interpret that as it is stated, not as how you want it to be. Yet crime rate was heavy in other areas of temporary housing, such as rental units as mentioned in the article. What about that is hard to believe?

(Report Comment)
kate June 2, 2009 | 4:11 p.m.

Three undergraduate students at Mizzou completed a project that looked at some (but not all) of the issues facing Columbia today. They were kind enough to share their findings with the City Council as well as providing other ideas for future studies. It's interesting that despite all the grousing about expensive consultants, we have some people complaining about free work provided by students. This is how a university and a city should work together. This information would be a great start for a doctoral dissertation, which is way beyond the scope of undergraduates in a single class. Good job students, and thanks for choosing something that is meaningful for the community. I hope that other enterprising students aren't dissuaded by this type of criticism.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro June 2, 2009 | 5:34 p.m.

To students:
Thanks for coming forward.
I did not write this Missourian article.
Personally, I would have had a completely separate article explaining the kind of research students work on.
After hearing from you, I am even more perplexed as to why this article gave graffiti top billing, considering that CPD just announced there "hot spot" crime units.
(City officials put summer focus on crime
‘Hot spots’ targeted for intensive effort.
By Joe Meyer
Tuesday, June 2, 2009)

I only responded to what I read as presented by Ms. Rogers, who elevated your research by including it in this article

Is your report available to the general public?
Perhaps it could have been encoded in the above Graffiti, Crime, Rental article.
IMHO, the manner in which it was presented by Abby Rogers did you more of a disservice then good PR.
Hope you guys have a good summer.

(Report Comment)

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