City of Sedalia, Pettis County see crime increase in 2015

By Nicole Cooke - [email protected]

By Nicole Cooke

[email protected]

The FBI recently released its Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report for January-June 2015, and crime statistics for the City of Sedalia and Pettis County seem to be in line with national averages.

Calls for Service

The Sedalia Police Department had 24,428 calls for service in 2015 plus 5,558 traffic stops, a slight decrease from 2014, which saw 24,558 calls for service and 7,176 traffic stops. In 2013, SPD had 26,306 calls for service and 9,844 traffic stops. SPD Chief John DeGonia said a change in focus last year accounts for the change in numbers.

“We’re being proactive. The stuff we can prevent, we are. We’ve had two three-day street crimes where we try to serve outstanding warrants, looking for people with those warrants living in our community. I think that’s a large part of it,” he said. “And we’re spending more time doing patrol and doing a few less traffic stops. When we do see (traffic) violations we stop them though.

“We wanted to be more proactive,” he continued. “We discussed it with the mayor. Stopping vehicles is good, but our main purpose is we want to get in the neighborhoods more. If we’re patrolling the neighborhoods we can prevent the burglaries, hopefully.”

DeGonia noted that the 24,428 calls also include more than 3,000 calls SPD dispatched for the Pettis County Ambulance District starting in February 2015.

As for the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office, they’ve seen an increase in calls. In 2015, the sheriff’s office had 12,750 incidents requiring officer attention, with 1,592 resulting in written reports. In 2014, the office had 11,106 incidents requiring officer attention resulting in 1,581 reports.

“We as a tendency creep up a little each year and this year was no different as far as calls for service,” said Sheriff Kevin Bond. “Reasoning for that, our population continues to increase, we have large amounts of construction going on and along with that, crime doesn’t occur in a vacuum, it happens like everything else does. If you see other things that are creeping up a little bit, probably your crime is going to do the same thing.”

Violent Crime

According to the FBI, preliminary figures indicate law enforcement agencies throughout the nation showed an overall increase of 1.7 percent in the number of violent crimes, which includes murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, from 2014 to 2015.

Violent crimes in Sedalia also saw an increase from 119 incidents in 2014 to 159 in 2015. Aggravated assault was up from 97 in 2014 to 123 in 2015. Robbery increased from 14 in 2014 to 25 in 2015.

Pettis County saw a decrease from 102 incidents in 2014 to 59 in 2015. Robbery stayed stagnant at one incident in both 2014 and 2015, while assaults were down from 98 in 2014 to 58 in 2015.

“The FBI reports crime is up all over the United States, not just here. It’s up everywhere,” DeGonia said. “… Am I happy with these numbers, no. Are these way out of kilter with what you’re seeing across the United States, no.”

DeGonia noted that while some crime is preventable, such as robberies and burglaries, crime such as aggravated assault and larceny theft is tougher to prevent.

“I can’t prevent somebody hitting somebody in the face. We can’t prevent that,” he said. “Larceny’s, that’s largely shoplifting, we can’t prevent someone from going into Walmart and stealing something.”

Property Crime

According to the FBI, the number of property crimes in the United States from January to June 2015 decreased 4.2 percent when compared with data for the same time period in 2014. Property crimes include burglary, larceny theft, and motor vehicle theft.

Property crime in Sedalia decreased from 1,233 incidents in 2014 to 1,134 in 2015. Larceny theft, which includes crimes such as shoplifting, saw a large decrease from 985 to 871. Burglary was slightly up from 187 in 2014 to 196 in 2015.

Those statistics were consistent with county crime. Property crime in Pettis County decreased from 266 incidents in 2014 to 247 in 2015. Stealing was down from 202 in 2014 to 161 in 2015, and burglary was up from 48 in 2014 to 73 in 2015.

“Last summer we saw a definite decrease in the number of burglaries that were occurring and of course we like to equate that to increased enforcement or at least putting the bad guys behind bars,” Bond said. “When you have burglaries occur, you don’t have a burglar that commits just one crime. We saw that number reduced, we feel pretty good we were able to make an impact and take them off the streets. More recently we’re seeing a little uptick on that so we’re concentrating our efforts on the burglaries we are seeing in the county.”

Overall Crime

Just as DeGonia said, SPD officers are spending more time on patrol, Bond said recent low gas prices have helped county officers spend more time on the streets. The sheriff’s office even applied for and was awarded a traffic grant this year that will help pay for officer overtime; Bond said they hadn’t applied in recent years because there was no reimbursement for fuel.

“We’ve never been in a situation where we’ve had to tell officers, ‘don’t go some place,’ but this past year I’ve been more proactive in telling officers to get out on the streets,” Bond said. “… Those types of grants pay overtime for the officers, so this is over and above what they’re normally working. It’s not saying when they’re normally on duty they’re not working, and the volume of calls we have dictates that, but these grants give them the ability to work extra and draw overtime pay they would not otherwise be eligible to get.”

Both Bond and DeGonia noted that while some categories of crime have seen increases and decreases, overall crime has stayed somewhat similar in recent years. Bond simply said he would say no, crime is not getting any worse in Pettis County.

“It’s similar (to recent years),” DeGonia said. “We’d always like the numbers to be lower and we’ll keep on striving to keep those numbers lower and to have less victims. “

“The other hidden thing these statistics can’t tell you is how effective our law enforcement officers are because if our officers are out there being proactive and making DWI arrests or they’re making drug arrests or something like that, those numbers are going to go up, but that just means that we’re out there working harder,” Bond noted. “The more proactive work we do, the higher the numbers are going to be because of that.

“As a result, I think the officers that work for the county as well as the officers that work for the Sedalia Police Department are good, hard-working protectors of our community. They’re out there looking to reduce crime where it’s possible and make sure people are safe in their homes and businesses. From that standpoint, I think we do a pretty good job.”

Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.

Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.

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