LACLEDE COUNTY, Missouri – Sheriff David Millsap says crime in Laclede County is down nearly 9% during the first half of the year compared to the same time period in 2017. “We have had nearly a 27% decline in burglaries and an 8% decline in thefts in the first six months of the year,” Millsap said in a press release. Last year overall crime in Laclede County dropped 8% driven by a substantial drop in violent crime. “We have made real effort to decrease property crimes in our first year and a half in office. With the advent of our community watch programs, our night watch program (checking business and churches at night), directed patrol areas, along with targeted investigative efforts, we are starting to see some positive effects,” Millsap said.
The Sheriff is pleased with how willing the deputies have been to share information with other agencies, not only locally, but other counties. The Laclede County Sheriff’s Office and the Webster County Sheriff’s Office has worked a number of property cases together and routinely share information. “We worked together in an operation; we called County Line Sweep, in which a total of 19 individuals were identified as causing criminal issues along the Laclede County and Webster County line. Most of the issues were property crime and drug related cases,” Millsap said, “most of the individuals associated together, but did not necessarily work together in a criminal enterprise.” The two offices shared information, and by July 2018 criminal charges had been filed or presented on most of the 19 individuals, either in Laclede or Webster County.
Recently, the Sheriff’s Office developed a weekly crime information bulletin that is shared with Lebanon PD, and other local agencies. “The bulletin is designed to share intelligence information and case information we are working on with other agencies. Criminals do not pay attention to jurisdictional boundaries, so we are sharing information in case Lebanon PD or Richland PD, for example, are working similar crimes, or cases regarding the same suspects,” Millsap said. “In addition last year we started emailing a list of stolen property to local pawn shops. When we have a theft of an item, that would be something a criminal might try to pawn, we send that information to the pawn shops to be on the lookout for that item.”
In addition to the sharing of information through the crime bulletin, and working with other agencies to identify common issues, the Sheriff’s Office is switching to a new records management system in August. The new system will allow the Sheriff’s Office, Lebanon Police Department, Webster County Sheriff’s Office, Dallas County Sheriff’s Office and the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, and other agencies, to share information more easily. “Currently we operate on a different records management system than our neighboring agencies. If I want to know, if they have arrested John Doe, or working a case with John Doe, I have to make a phone call and try to find out the information. With the same records management system I can do the research with a “mouse” click, and find out if they have dealt with John Doe, and why they dealt with him,” the Sheriff said.
Millsap contributes much of the down turn in property crimes to the work of the deputies and community members involved in the community watch programs. Burglaries are down nearly 27% in the first six months of this year, and thefts are down just over 8% in the county. “We have really stressed to the patrol deputies to do quality on scene investigations, to include crime scene processing and neighborhood canvases, and to share information internally with the each other. We have three investigators, and they have done a great job of working with patrol deputies to ensure information is being disseminated internally,” Millsap said. Currently the Sheriff’s Office has worked with citizens in the Eldridge, Sleeper, and Sassafras Road, Stoutland/BB/H Highway area, Phillipsburg and Conway areas to start community watch programs. The Nebo-Falcon area established their communities watch a few years ago and they continue to be active in that area.
Nationally only about 13% of burglaries are solved by law enforcement. “Property crimes are difficult crimes to solve usually there is a lack of eye witnesses, and often the property that is taken, the owner has not recorded the serial number or placed a personal identification mark on the item, making the property harder to trace or recover,” Millsap added, “Over the last year we have served a number of search warrants where we have recovered stolen property, because the item was unique or had a serial number on file as stolen, but we have left property at the scene because we couldn’t prove the item was stolen, though “our gut feeling was” the item was probably stolen,” Millsap added.
Overall property crime numbers are down in the county, but there have been 13 more vehicle thefts this year than last year. The majority of vehicles, that are stolen, the owners have left the keys in the vehicle. While the number of property crimes has decreased by nearly 9%, so has violent crime. Violent crime in the county is down 10%, in the first half of the year. Last year Laclede County saw a 42% decrease in violent crime.
“Obviously, you like to see good numbers, but I am also very cautious about being hung up on numbers. I remind myself daily, while crime is down, if you’re the victim of a crime you don’t care if crime is down overall in the county, if someone violates your home, stole your property, you want that solved, I get that and my staff get’s that. We are in the people business, not the number business,” Millsap said.