Prosecutor candidates aim to stem crime

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Matthew Weatherman, left, 29, of Cassville; Amy Boxx, center, 42, of Monett, look on as Steve Dunker, 50, of Cassville, answers a question at the Ozark Property Rights Alliance forum held Thursday at Crowder College in Cassville. Weatherman, Boxx and Dunker are running for prosecuting attorney, with the election to be held on Aug. 5. Kyle Troutman/

Trio pitches ideas to voters ahead of primary

A goal of the prosecuting attorney's office is to do as much as possible to stem crime, and the trio of Republican primary candidates for the Barry County office have put forward their ideas to do so.

Steve Dunker, 50, of Cassville; Amy Boxx, 42, of Monett; and Matthew Weatherman, 29, of Cassville will all be on the Aug. 5 ballot, and each has a plan to slow crime in the area.

Dunker, assistant prosecutor and office director for the Aurora Child Support Enforcement Project, said limiting the availability of alcohol to minors is one thing he would do.

"There are all kinds of theories, and one of the things I look at is what does the most damage," he said. "Even though things like thefts and burglaries are important, when you look at the numbers, one of the most damaging things there is are crimes involving minors using alcohol, getting into accidents or getting DWIs.

"A person is more likely to be injured by a drunk driver than be the victim of a burglary, so I want to try to cut off the flow of alcohol to minors and step up enforcement."

Dunker said to make a dent in alcohol-related incidents, he hopes to rally local, county and state law enforcement to step up enforcement against drunk drivers.

Boxx, a Monett attorney, said programs in place, such as the Barry County Drug Court program, are great tools for lowering crime rates, but rely heavily on the people involved to be successful.

"With drug court or any other program you send the person to, if they don't want to get off drugs, they are not going to get off drugs," she said. "A criminal is a criminal whether or not drugs are involved. If that's not the program for them or they don't qualify for it, they need to go to prison. That's what the system's for."

Boxx said tough punishment is necessary for those who break the law, and some crimes may need tougher punishments.

"The job of the prosecutor is to enforce the laws that exist," she said. "Do we need tougher laws for various kind of crime? Perhaps we do. Unfortunately, that's not up to us to determine, that's up to the state legislature. The legislature determines the amount of punishment for various crimes, and those are the confines we have to work in."

Weatherman said he believes drugs cause 99 percent of all crime in Barry County, and to stall crime, he hopes to get more at the root of the problem.

"If we really, truly want to bring the crime down, we can't just deal with the flare ups, we have to deal with the cause," he said. "I think every law enforcement official will tell you the cause of almost all crime for Barry County is drugs and drug addiction.

"The tool that works to cut down crime, to lower the rates, to go after the cause, is working with the drug court and establishing a mental health court to take care of that side of it."

Weatherman said he also hopes to have better communication with local law enforcement.

"We need to be meeting with the heads of law enforcement, not just Sheriff [Mick] Epperly, [but all municipal police chiefs]," he said. "If someone in one part of the county does something that's working, the whole county can look at implementing it, too.

"You have to work with law end because they're the ones who see this every day."

The three candidates will square off on the Barry County Republican primary ballot on Aug. 5. No non-Republican filed, making the primary the de facto election.

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