Beware of the person who promises quick, easy solutions to any kind of complex problem.
For St. Joseph, no problem is more acute than crime and the goal of preventing its spread. Local law enforcement officials know crime deterrence involves a multitude of approaches, some aimed at the social causes, some involving arrest of the criminals themselves.
In recent months, two agencies launched initiatives that couldn’t seem more different. One features a gadget-packed helicopter hovering overhead, while the other involves deputies taking more of a knock-knock approach at the front-door level.
Both efforts add to the tapestry of enforcement action that helps make St. Joseph a safer place.
It was hard to ignore the first time the St. Joseph Police Department arranged to send a Missouri State Highway Patrol helicopter into the sky. Since then, police have used this aircraft six or seven times in the aim of curtailing vehicle thefts as well as those who flee law enforcement.
In the latest operation, the helicopter helped local officers on the ground make 26 arrests following 130 vehicle stops.
“When they run, they have no care for anyone,” said Capt. Jeff Wilson with the St. Joseph Police Department. “It’s having an impact.”
Unlike a helicopter enforcement operation, social media did not light up with the Buchanan County Sheriff Office’s focus of reducing the backlog of outstanding warrants. Since launching the program nine months ago, deputies made arrests on 71 warrants. A total of 23 were taken care of when individuals decided to go to court.
The benefit of these law enforcement operations extends beyond a suspect taken off the streets. They serve to carve a line in the sand about what a community will and will not tolerate regarding criminal activity.
Both operations involve some cost to society, but not as much as you would think. Wilson said police might incur some overtime, but the patrol provides use of the craft to communities across the state.
Puett said the sheriff’s office was able to address outstanding warrants with a realignment of work rather than an increase to its budget.
The reality is, it takes more than warm thoughts to make a dent in crime. A city or county that wants good law enforcement will have to pay for it in terms of personnel and equipment.
Local officials appear willing to make that commitment. Asked what he thought of the helicopter operations, councilman Brian Myers had this to say last week:
“As long as it scares the heck out of the criminals, I’m for it.”