Springfield, MO

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Springfield Police Department data show a 22% decrease in crimes against property during 2022. 
SBJ file 
Springfield Police Department data show a 22% decrease in crimes against property during 2022. 

Crime dropped 17% in 2022 through SPD initiative, chief tells council 

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Crime trended down in 2022 as the Springfield Police Department pursued a data-driven program focused on deterrence. Chief Paul Williams reported to City Council Jan. 9 on the results of his department’s efforts, comparing the period of January to November 2022 with the same period in 2021. 

In that 11-month period, based on preliminary data, total crimes that were reported decreased 17%, from 22,301 to 18,442. Crimes against persons were down 6%, from 5,716 to 5,393; crimes against property, down 22%, from 14,079 to 11,025; and crimes against society, down 19%, from 2,506 to 2,024. 

Calls for service also were down and did not surpass 100,000, Williams said. There were 98,495 calls in all of 2022, compared with 109,826 in 2021 and 108,620 in 2020. That’s a 10% decrease in 2022. 

Through social media and public engagement, officials say the department got the word out about specific areas of crime in each of the four quarters of 2022, focusing on theft of vehicles in the first quarter, burglaries in in the second quarter, theft from vehicles in the third quarter and robberies in the fourth quarter. 

PSAs were viewed by thousands of city residents, with the one on theft of vehicles garnering a total of 35,900 views on all platforms. 

In three of the four quarters, the type of crime targeted went down, but in the last one, robberies, Williams said SPD recorded a 13% overall increase. This includes commercial robbery, with 15 incidents in 2022 versus eight in 2021. 

In contrast, theft of vehicles was reduced 30%, from 355 to 248 incidents year over year. Burglaries were reduced 19%, with residential burglaries falling from 190 to 164, a 14% reduction, and commercial burglaries falling from 101 to 73, a 28% reduction. Theft from vehicles was reduced 23.5%, from 1,050 to 804 incidents year over year. 

“Those quarters where we focused on something, almost without a doubt that crime decreased due to increased public awareness, education and officer involvement and engagement in crime prevention,” Williams said. 

An unfortunate outcome occurred when attention shifted to another area of crime, he noted. 

“When we focused on something else, unfortunately, crime rebounded in the succeeding quarter, so that gives us something to improve on,” he said. 

This year, Williams said the department will continue its focus on robberies. 

“That was the one negative note to end the year on, that that category had increased even though we had focused patrol, resources and public awareness on those types of crime,” he said. 

The public information aspect of the deterrence program is coupled with data provided by risk terrain modeling software. For the robbery category, the data indicated to officers the areas of the city where crime was most likely to occur, as well as the type of businesses that were most vulnerable and the days of the week when crime was most common. 

Potential for robberies was most likely in restaurants or smoke/vape shops or CBD stores, and also in businesses surrounding those types of establishments, Williams said, and Saturdays and Mondays are the days with the most crime. 

The modeling program also showed locations that were more vulnerable for robberies, with some areas of the map highlighted in red.  

“We rolled that out to patrol officers – said when you’re patrolling in your area, when you have businesses that match that description or when your beat encompasses one of those red dots on the map, we want you to concentrate patrol activities there when you’re not responding to calls,” Williams said. 

Though robberies rose during their fourth-quarter target period, Williams didn’t see the results as entirely negative. 

“We did not have any robberies of restaurants or vape shops during that time period, but we had an increase in commercial robberies of convenience stores, gas stations and a couple of bank robberies,” he said. 

The information was good, Williams said, adding it was likely officers’ vigilance prevented robberies in the areas they targeted. 


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Regarding “Crime dropped 17% in 2022 through SPD initiative, chief tells council”

Respectfully, Chief Williams numbers are skewed, at best. We stopped calling SPD. And from talking to other business owners and citizens, we’re not the only ones. According to the article, calls went down 10% from 2021-2022, but our calls to SPD have gone down nearly 100% - we quit calling because they produce zero (0%) results from SPD. If it’s going to get zero results, why call? Maybe the call numbers did go down, but not likely for the stated reasons.

We have 6 locations in the city limits of Springfield and after years – literally years – of nonresponse and lax or gee-whiz attitudes from the SPD, we simply don’t call anymore. When something gets stolen with a large enough value, we call SPD, get a case number over the phone and submit it to the insurance company, because I promise you SPD will not come to the crime scene. Ask them, they will confirm this. Our business insurance and taxes (for police service) go up every year. All the $100 misc vandalism, $250 in broken glass, $300 stolen metal parts, $500 equipment items, we don’t bother to call. For a long time, we ate the cost. But we did finally have to raise our prices. The last time SPD showed any interest in what was going on at one of our locations was when SPD sent two officers with sidearms and Kevlar vests (for effect I think) to make sure we were shutting down for the coronavirus debacle. Ironically, we had just had a $30,000 piece of machinery stolen at another site and did SPD show up for that? Of course not. However, they did take the information over the phone, and we got a case number. What’s the harm, you ask? Insurance paid us back, right? Yes, but we didn’t get replacement value and we had a deductible to pay too. Then of course our insurance rates went up, plus it took 30+ man hours tracking down a new unit and getting it back on the jobsite. Downtime, reduced productivity, it goes on and on.

We have property crime every single month. We had a $500 theft and property damage 3 nights ago. Did we call SPD? Of course not. Because it has rarely been taken seriously. 99% of the issues we have are from the vagrants that run around doing various mischief and petty theft. We have vagrants causing general disturbances, sleeping on our properties, high/passed out and literally blocking our ability to open a door, stealing copper wire, stealing copper piping, stealing virtually anything, tearing up doors trying to get in, mangling outside fixtures etc looking for something to steal and on and on and on……………

We fully support and appreciate the rank and file of SPD. I have known many, many in law enforcement over the years. I’ve had numerous people in my family involved law enforcement. I have friends that are in law enforcement now. I know a dozen more from church. These are good people. My daughter wants to go into law enforcement! I am confident they want to do the right thing. But it appears to me that most of the police we see on the street daily feel ineffective. Not helpless, as much as hamstrung and just not particularly accomplishing any level of change from their efforts. It seems that no matter what they do, policies allow the base issues to continue. They are very likely overworked and certainly unappreciated. I don’t think it was the Kevlar vest wearing officers’ idea to come shut us down for corona. That initiative, as well as all other priorities, comes down from above. That’s going to be the Chief of Police and City Council. It may not be the theft division officers idea to not come and physically investigate $30k equipment thefts either. Of that I am not certain. All I know is they do it all over the phone, and that is bad customer service.

But again, I simply want to reiterate, the Chief’s numbers are, at the very least, warped.

How do I know the numbers are wrong? To deal with this ongoing, persistent issue, we have resorted to hiring private security. Our team can call them anytime of the day/night and get a response. If staff sees something or feels unsafe, they call our private security. When the alarm goes off in the middle of the night, we call the private security company to go to the site. We don’t call the SPD. Maybe they’ll get there maybe they won’t. And they are probably busy with another more urgent call, I don’t know. But when vagrant wanders on to our property or hops the fence to go through our vacuums or dumpster, we call the private security company. Did I mention that we’ve now had to start fencing most of our properties? We are now spending $25,000 in fencing costs/location to deter vagrants from wandering on to our new sites. So, our expenses have gone up even more with higher building costs building fences/gates. We have spent over $22,000 in the past year paying for private security. Do I think if we paid $22,000 more in city taxes, we would get better policing? I do not.

I am confident that if we had a shooting or stabbing or armed robbery at a property, SPD would show up in a hurry. I genuinely do believe that, and I am thankful for that backup. Our staff typically pre-empts any confrontation with someone, who may be armed, and going through the dumpster, by simply calling the private security company. They come in and deal with the, potentially volatile/violent, situation without our team having to get involved in a circumstance that could escalate if not handled properly. The private security people are trained in de-escalation tactics and, by and large, do a really good job. These are not perfect people, but they show up and do their best.

This petty theft problem is not actually petter. It is extra-large by my observation. And it isn’t overly complicated in many instances. A lot of it is substance abuse. Just do the math. How does an addict with $300/day habit – with no job – afford that $300/day drug habit? He steals. It is just that simple. Ask the ex-addicts. I have asked them, and this is what they say. They stated the average heroin user requires $200-$500/day for his/her heroin addiction. And they basically steal anything of any perceived value all day, at every opportunity.

Do you think we have 10 of these addicts in Springfield? Probably 10 x that number.

For every 10, here’s the math. $300/day x 365 days x 10 users = $109,500/year/addict = $1,095,000/year of stolen property to support their habits.

Realize they will get pennies on the dollar/scrap prices for the copper/misc items they stole, so they get $20 for the scrap copper, $100 for the pressure washer - it will cost the building owner, conservatively, 15x the scrap amount to get it all put back together. Plumbers are $120/hour. New copper pipe is ridiculously expensive. The pressure washer I paid $1200 for last year is now $1650. Replace a stolen catalytic converter, $600.

At replacement cost, that’s $16,425,000 of property damage per year for 10 addicts.

So, what do you get when you investigate petty theft and property crime? My guess is that often you would eventually meet someone who steals $300/day, 365 days a year.

I am certain that I will be accused of oversimplifying the situation, but this is how I see it from my perspective.

Just please don’t try and convince me crime is actually down.

Thursday, January 19, 2023
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