City police oppose addition of new land

Officers cite shortage of staff to respond to mobile home calls.
Thursday, May 31, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:28 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission last week recommended approval of a request to annex and rezone for commercial use about 20 acres off U.S. 63 that is now the site of Sunset and Ed’s mobile home parks. The article below incorrectly reported the status of the request. The Columbia City Council likely will take up the issue in June.

Ron Netemeyer has peaceful early memories of Sunset Mobile homes. The Columbia lawyer and managing partner of Whirlwind Properties LLC grew up in the mobile home park that his company acquired a year ago.

Life isn’t so peaceful in his old neighborhood anymore. Calls from the mobile home park drew Boone County sheriff’s deputies more than 700 times from January 2006 to May 17, 2007. That’s why the Columbia Police Department is opposing Netemeyer’s proposal to bring the area into the city of Columbia.

The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission last week recommended approval of the request to annex the 20 acres off U.S. 63 where Ed’s Mobile Home Park and Sunset Mobile Home Park sit. Although residents of these neighborhoods have their own worries about the annexation, Columbia police say they don’t have the staff to respond to calls there.

Columbia police Officer Tim Thomason compiled data on the area that is being considered for annexation and compared the calls from the two county mobile home parks with all of those within city limits. His findings turned the department against the plan.

“The amount is extraordinary,” Thomason said.

Sunset Mobile Home Park averaged six calls for each of its 130 lots; Ed’s, which has 30 lots, averaged 10 calls per lot. The highest average for mobile home parks in the city of Columbia was three per lot. Together, the two parks totaled more than 1,000 calls.

“If you compare the number of lots per calls for service, it’s quite a few,” Columbia police Capt. Zim Schwartze said. If annexed, the area would fall under her command in the east district.

“It’s a budgetary issue,” Schwartze said. “We will have to request additional resources. Any time you add a large number of calls, that means more resources.”

But Netemeyer said the statistics are misleading. Many of the calls are “watching in passing,” which is when a landlord or a resident requests that the Sheriff’s Department drive through the area to create a sense of a police presence. Other times, the department may initiate “watching in passing” on its own accord. Major Tom Reddin of the Sheriff’s Department confirmed that many of the calls are “WIPs.”

“I’m not saying it is insignificant, because they have had complaints, so they need to check it out,” Netemeyer said. By his own calculations, 259 of the more than 700 calls counted from Sunset were watching in passings. Thomason recorded 420 watching in passing calls between both mobile home parks. Most of the rest were follow-ups on previous calls, disturbances and missing-vehicle reports.

The number of police reports taken at Sunset and Ed’s also far exceeded every mobile home park in Columbia except Columbia Regency Mobile Home Park, which has 278 lots — the largest number of lots in the city and 140 more than Sunset. Since last January, there were only eight more police reports filed for Columbia Regency than Sunset.

“It sure seems like the Sheriff’s Department is out here a lot,” said John Lemaster, a nine-year resident of Sunset Mobile Home Park. Most of them seem to be domestic disputes, he said.

Patricia McKenzie, a resident who has an in-home child care service, said her part of the neighborhood is quiet.

“I don’t feel that there is any more crime than any other area in Columbia,” McKenzie said. But, she added, “I can’t speak for the top half.”

Thomason said landlords can help reduce the number of calls from their properties by screening applicants and looking at the criminal records of applicants.

Once a person has become a problem tenant, it’s up to landlords to take action. In Columbia, Thomason said, a landlord will receive notice when a person who lives on their property is arrested. “They can choose to evict, but many don’t,” Thomason said. “It depends on the crime.”

Netemeyer said he has evicted many people because of criminal activity, including domestic assault. “There’s more criminal activity out there than I would like,” he said. “I don’t think it’s as big of a problem as it’s made out to be.”

Two more hearings will be held before the council decides whether to annex the area into the city of Columbia and whether or not to make it residential or commercial.

“Right now we were asked to review the issues for this area and our concerns with what exists there,” Schwartze said. “Our job was to find out what kind of response we need to have and what we are dealing with.”

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