Columbia Holds Meeting to Address Recent Crime Wave
COLUMBIA - Mayor Bob McDavid, Police Chief Ken Burton, and Columbia City Council members held a meeting Wednesday afternoon to address recent crimes in Columbia.
"Public safety is the first job of city government, " City manager Mike Matthes said. "It is the most important thing we think about, it's our primary source of expenditure and what we spend most of our time thinking about. We take it very seriously."
Columbia's 2013 DirectionFinder Survey indicated citizens found public safety services to be the most important service offered by the city. Crime prevention in particular ranked No. 1, followed by the speediness of police responding to emergencies. Infrastructure-related issues followed public safety services.
Matthes said it was because of the city's commitment to public safety that he was so concerned about both the recent shootings and increase in the rate of shootings.
Four shootings have occurred in the city in the past two weeks. On June 15, eight bullets were fired on the corner of 10th and Broadway, injuring three people. According to the Columbia Police Department's regional analysis map, this shooting was the first to occur in that block of downtown Columbia since last July. Police have yet to identify any suspects.
On June 21, shots were fired at Lakewood Apartments, although no injuries resulted.
An early morning shooting on June 23 occurred on Bodie Drive, during which a 19-year-old man was shot in the leg at a house party.
Finally, a fatal shooting occurred late Sunday night outside a Laundromat on Conley Road. 25-year-old Anthony Unger of Jefferson City died. Samuel Butler and Joycelynn Brown were both charged with second-degree murder after a drug deal with Unger.
Additionally, officers responded to an armed robbery at Phillips 66 on 2200 West Ash Street Tuesday morning.
"We can't share everything in the media that would clarify a lot of these things that would actually reduce the fear of citizens when these kinds of things happen," Burton said. "We have to give our prosecutors an opportunity to bring those cases to a successful conclusion. It is counter-productive for us to try the individual that is alleged to have committed the crime in the media."
Burton described the police department's work as a "balancing act," before presenting new information and updates regarding the recent string of crimes. Burton said the Anthony Unger homicide was still under investigation and predicted more arrests were possible and very likely.
With regards to the Bodie Drive shooting, he called the victim uncooperative and said the police department had no further information.
"No witnesses have come forward," Burton said. "We don't know if it's gang-related."
Police have identified two suspects in the shooting at the Lakewood Apartments, but the suspects, Kimo Spivey and Tabisha Franklin, were not yet in custody.
"It was an ongoing dispute over money," he said. "We are told it was over 60 dollars."
Finally, Burton said the victims of the downtown shooting at Broadway and Tenth were not cooperating with the police. He also said the police believed that shooting was gang-related.
"What you don't know is that the downtown team that had worked the previous six weekends, all weekend long, had a well-deserved weekend off," Burton explained. "By luck of the draw, it happened to happen while they were off."
Burton said he was struck by the number of kids who were out late and seemingly running toward trouble rather than away from it. He then proposed implementing a curfew for teenagers. The curfew, for which he has yet to submit a written proposal, would undergo a two-year trial run to measure its success.
"There are those who will argue with me that the victims weren't children," Burton said. "They could have easily been children."
Burton plans to submit a written proposal to the city within 30 days.
Mayor Bob McDavid said,"I'm asking the city manager to fund more police officers in next years budget cycle." McDavid said families need to know what their children are doing to help prevent violent acts from happening.
Although the police chief suggested a curfew, the city council thought more community involvement was the key to keeping people out of trouble.