Columbia crime rate rising, but lags other large cities

Highway patrol statistics show the rates of several different crimes in Columbia are at four-year highs, but they are behind those of other large Missouri cities.

The patrolâ??s Uniform Crime Reporting system shows there were four homicides in Columbia between January and June of this year compared to three during the same period last year and one the year before that. The Columbia Police Department sends its crime data to the highway patrol on a quarterly basis, so the data does not include the murder of Treveon Marshall in July. This translates to a rate of 0.04 homicides per 1,000 residents for the first six months of the year. This gives Columbia the third highest homicide rate among Missouriâ??s five most populous cities. Kansas City and St. Louis had 0.09 and 0.14 homicides per 1,000 residents during the first half of this year, respectively.

Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey told KRCG 13 a lack of proactive policing in Columbia has led to an environment where criminals feel free to operate. Carey said police are not carrying out as many search warrants or car stops since a 2010 incident during which a SWAT team shot and killed a family dog during a drug raid. When asked about his relationship with Columbia police, Carey said he has not spoken with Ken Burton since Burton became police chief outside of meetings at which both men were present, though he added he has spoken with other Columbia officers as well as the cityâ??s manager and mayor. Columbia police did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

Columbia residents said Sunday they were generally unconcerned by the rise in crime, saying the key to staying safe is knowing how to spot trouble and avoiding it. Cassidy Robinson said she never walks home alone from her job at Mojoâ??s and always carries pepper spray.

â??Itâ??s kind of scary being downtown at night, but itâ??s okay as long as you stay away from the worst parts,â?? she said.

Bob Pund said he always makes sure his doors are locked whenever he goes out. Pund said someone once stole his TV after he left his door unlocked, so he is extra careful about his door now.

Patrol data show total assault and robbery rates in Columbia are both down compared to last year but assaults and robberies involving firearms are up. Robberies using firearms are at a four-year high of 0.23 incidents per 1,000 residents and assaults involving firearms are at the same level. However, firearm assaults are a long way off from where they were at this time in 2011, when there were 0.42 incidents per 1,000 residents. The entire county had a combined rate of 0.2 firearm assaults per 1,000 residents through June of this year, higher than last year but short of the rates in 2011 and 2010.

Columbiaâ??s firearm assault rate through this June ranks last among Missouriâ??s five largest cities. Fourth-place Independence had 0.29 assaults involving firearms per 1,000 residents during the same period, while St. Louis led with 2.13 such assaults. Columbia places fourth in terms of robberies involving firearms per 1,000 residents for the first half of this year, behind Springfield at 0.31. St. Louis led this category as well with 1.05 such robberies for every 1,000 residents. During the same period going back to 2010, Columbia came in fourth or fifth among Missouriâ??s largest cities when it came to robberies or assaults, either with firearms or in terms of total incidents, for every 1,000 residents.

Carey said Columbia residents should be â??very concernedâ?? about the crime rate in their city, noting serious crime is no longer confined to any one part of town.

â??I have been a member of the sheriffâ??s office for 24 years and it has never been like this,â?? he said.

The National Crime Prevention Council has a number of tips to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime. They include:

Donâ??t walk or jog early in the morning or late at night when the streets are deserted.

When out at night, try to have a friend walk with you.

Carry only the money youâ??ll need on a particular day.

Donâ??t display your cash or any other inviting targets such as pagers, cell phones, hand-held electronic games, or expensive jewelry and clothing.

If you think someone is following you, switch directions or cross the street. If the person continues to follow you, move quickly toward an open store or restaurant or a lighted house. Donâ??t be afraid to yell for help.

Columbia mayor Bob McDavidâ??s office refused to comment on this story. McDavid will hold a press conference on the crime situation at 10 a.m. Monday.