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Trouble on Demaret Drive

An analysis of 911 call data shows calls from Demaret Drive far outstrip comparable streets in Columbia and Boone County.

When Boone County deputies were called to a shooting on June 8, 2015 that put two men in the hospital, it was the latest in a string of calls to Demaret Drive.

Neither victim suffered life-threatening injuries, and a suspect was arrested the following day. Still, Boone County Sheriff's Department Detective Tom O'Sullivan said the street has been a problem throughout his 28 years on the force.

"You name it, it goes on out there. There's drug dealing, assaults, shootings, and general nuisances, peace disturbances, domestic violence," he said. "You name it, it goes on on Demaret Drive."

Demaret Drive lies just outside Columbia's city limit, near the Lake of the Woods exit. It's a short street, measuring about half a mile in length. KRCG 13 obtained 911 call data for the first eight months of 2013, 2014 and 2013 for Demaret Drive as well as two other residential streets that lie just outside Columbia's city limit, El Chaparral Avenue and Shiloh/Yosemite Avenues. We then compared the data to three streets in northeastern Columbia. In each period, Demaret Drive had more calls for service than all other streets in the sample put together. There were 149 calls for service between January and August 2013, 119 in 2014 and 75 in 2015. Most of the calls were for peace disturbances, but the data also include more serious incidents. For example, the 2015 data show 10 calls for domestic violence, seven calls for harassment, and four each for drugs and shots fired.

Asked what was driving Demaret Drive's numbers, O'Sullivan pointed to the landlords that rent properties on the street, particularly in the 700 block.

"I think the core problem on Demaret Drive is we have a number of really poor landlords--slumlords," he said.

O'Sullivan said several on Demaret Drive don't screen their tenants in any way before renting to them. He said those landlords don't invest in their properties, either.

Records on file with the Boone County Assessor's Office show at least 26 different landlords who own properties on Demaret Drive. Four of them--EMC Real Estate, Mutual Holdings, Midwest Columbia Properties and Brian Christensen--account for half of the 911 calls during the period KRCG 13 reviewed. Public records didn't show any contact information for the three holding companies, but KRCG 13 was able to find addresses for each of their agents and Christensen. None of the contacts were home, and nobody responded to notes left behind.

O'Sullivan's characterization of some of Demaret's landlords comes as no surprise to Joyce Parker. She has lived on Demaret for 14 years and said she has a great relationship with her landlord, but she knows a number of people who live in poorly-maintained properties.

"There's a lady whose apartment caught on fire four years ago," she said. "If you walk in that apartment right now, it is still black, water-sodden, mold, and he (the landlord) is still collecting the rent, promptly, on the first of the month."

Rental properties in Boone County are not subject to the same rules and regulations they face inside the Columbia city limits. O'Sullivan said the sheriff has been lobbying to tighten those rules. He said some properties in Boone County would never pass muster in Columbia. Parker said the comparative lack of rules makes it easier for landlords to work with struggling families who might not pass a normal credit check, but it also lets landlords operate who only care that the rent is paid on time.

"We've had sex offenders move in out here," she said. "Our kids play on these streets."

Parker and O'Sullivan are both quick to point out the vast majority of Demaret Drive residents are hard-working, law-abiding citizens. Parker, who grew up in St. Louis, said she has never had any problem living on Demaret Drive and is happy where she is.

"When I moved to Demaret, my mom asked me, 'Honey, where do you live at?' I told her I live in the suburbs, okay? And I still feel like I live in the suburbs," she said. "Demaret's been a great place for me and my family. So I think people attach more to the name than what goes on out here."

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