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Columbia mayor calls for "comprehensive" strategy on crime, homicides

Columbia mayor calls for comprehensive strategy on crime homicides

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Mayor Brian Treece called on City Manager Mike Matthes to come up with a "comprehensive" strategy to reduce crime, starting with homicides.

The mayor made the request near the end of Monday's city council meeting, a week after ABC 17 News asked Treece about what was being done about the growing number of homicides in Columbia.

Police have made no arrests in the latest homicide on Lasso Circle. Gus Roberts, 28, was killed in what police say was a "drug related" incident. Roberts' death is the city's ninth homicide of the year, tying a 20-year high set in 2000.

Treece said he wanted to make sure "everybody's head is in the game" in coming up with solutions to put an end to the homicides.

"I want to know what the city can do and what additional help you need from the city council to achieve that," Treece said. "I think our detectives are spread thin, and if there are other police officers with experience as a detective that we can do a short-term surge of detectives until we get on top of this, I think we ought to consider that."

ABC 17 News highlighted CPD's lack of detectives when compared to the Benchmark Cities, a program of 27 cities similar to Columbia. The department has 12 detectives in its Criminal Investigations Division, with one spot vacant. The average number of detectives in cities of a similar size is 30.

Dale Roberts, executive director of the Columbia Police Officers Association, told ABC 17 News that he didn't believe the department had a plan. Officers and detectives are spread thin by the daily workload of responding to calls, Roberts said, and help on the front lines is needed.

"Maybe moving additional people from somewhere in, maybe from command staff, into the detective's unit to address some of these issues might be helpful," Roberts said.

The department's 12 command staff, made up of one chief, two deputy chiefs, two assistant chiefs and seven lieutenants puts CPD above the average number of commanders. The average among the Benchmark Cities is eight.

Lingering vacancies at CPD also make it difficult for the department to keep up with its call volume and active investigations. While 12 new recruits were sworn into the department on Wednesday, one of the largest recruiting classes for CPD, months of field training await them before they will respond to calls, Chief Ken Burton said at a meeting last week.

CPD also faces several impending resignations from high-level members of the department, according to Burton.  Roberts said that the department usually fills the vacancies on the command staff quickly, but may consider keeping them open.

"Maybe in a time of a record number of homicides, some of those spots can be left vacant and the individuals left either in patrol or the detectives bureau, depending on where they came from," Roberts said.

The new fiscal year's budget would allow the city to hire four new civilian employees for jobs held by sworn officers. Those officers would then be added to parts of CPD in need of police power, like patrol. Two of those four positions will be in CID, ABC 17 News reported last month. One of the detectives will focus on aging homicide cases as the number of unsolved cases grows in the city.



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