Federal grant may allow city to hire additional officer

Wednesday, July 5, 2017
The 7th Street Park is one area that has been identified and targeted by the city as a problem area for vandalism, loitering, littering and fighting, and the city, and newly-reorganized Youth Advisory Board at Cassville High School have it on their radar to improve those conditions under a new community policing model, which the city plans to implement if a grant through the U.S. Department of Justice and COPS program (Community Oriented Police Services) is received. The grant would help pay the majority of the salary for a new officer. Currently, the park closes at midnight – the latest curfew of the three parks in the city, but changing that curfew to discourage illicit activity is just one action that may be looked at in addressing issues to reduce crime in the community. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

City plans to pursue community policing model, enlist partnerships

The city of Cassville is applying for a federal grant that, if received, would allow it to hire an additional police officer and pursue a new model of policing the community.

According to Dana Kammerlohr, city police chief, the city council approved application for the 75/25 percent matching grant through the U.S. Department of Justice’s COPS program (Community Oriented Police Services), which would fund most of the officer’s salary.

In conjunction with the grant, the city would explore the concept of community policing, which involves targeting problem areas, allocating officers to those areas and empowering them to address and problem-solve crime proactively. The grant also seeks to improve the public image of law enforcement.    

“The concept of community policing is for law enforcement to work with different areas of the community to reduce crime,”Kammerlohr said. “And, to improve the image, overall, of law enforcement, not only in Cassville but throughout other communities. The goal is to assist the public in developing and maintaining a safe and orderly environment.

“One of those goals is to enhance the SRO Officer in our schools to meet the needs of the school system. So we would work close with the school, and we would work within the community to help reduce crime in a proactive way, along with being reactive to crime.”

The grant, which the city will apply for in mid July, would pay 75 percent of the officer’s salary for three years. Thereafter, the city would pay.

“It’s doable,” Kammerlohr said. “The council has approved application, so they’re committed to the process.”

While the new officer’s focus would be community policing, the eventual goal is to implement the concept department-wide.

One location Kammerlohr plans to target is the 7th Street city park, which she said has been a problem area, but there isn’t enough manpower to patrol the parks as much as needed.

“We’re down two officers,”Kammerlohr said. “But, we’re still doing our routine patrols. Our SRO was able to pick up on some shifts, and our two part-time officers are helping fill in. I’d like to get more officers patrolling the parks. The city park area is one known area that we have already identified for more officer presence. We’ve had vandalism, littering and fights, and we are trying to reduce that. We’re not the only city to have those problems occur.

“We can’t sit at the parks all the time, so officers do their routine patrols, and if they foresee problems, try to be in the park. I think if people knew officers were patrolling, they’d be less apt to cause problems. The park should be a safe area for families to come and enjoy. We want the people of our community to enjoy the parks and feel safe, not be harassed or witness fights.”

Park hours may play a part, and closing some parks earlier, such as the 7th Street park, which closes at midnight, may be discussed. By comparison, the Cassville Aquatic Park and Rocky Edmondson Park close at 10 p.m., along with the Greenway Trail.

Although harassment has been reported in the city park, it’s not a common occurrence, Kammerlohr said.

“We’ve had 15 cases of harassment calls since the first of the year, and not just at the city park,” she said.

Local youth allegedly contribute to some of the problems, including loitering, littering, vandalism, driving through the grass and other inappropriate behaviors.

Kammerlohr’s had a message to share with youth.

“Just do the right thing,” she said. “If it’s one of your friends committing vandalism, stand up to them. All youth visiting the park should be respectful to the people and property around them. We want young people to have a place to go, but want them to respect the area and others who come to the park.”

Any persons found committing acts can be ticketed, fined or ordered to pay restitution to the city.

For general safety, Kammerlohr offered residents, particularly women, the following advice:

• Don’t go to the parks after dark

• Be aware of surroundings

• Park in lighted areas

• Take self-defense tools and cell phone

• Take another adult

• If threatened, leave the area or call 911

• If attacked, fight back; yell for help

• Don’t go to public areas after dark

“Everyone should always be aware of their surroundings — no matter where they are, whether they’re on the Greenway Trail or a shopping mall,” Kammerlohr said. “Self-defense classes say your best chance for survival is to fight back, and you just fight as if it’s yours or your child’s life. And teach your child to run to the nearest place for help.

“The buddy system is always a good idea, too. Take another adult with you, even for accidents, like twisting your ankle. Even though the Greenway Trail is open until 10 p.m., it would be advisable not to use it after dark.”

In alignment with the community policing model to utilize partnerships and problem-solve, Kammerlohr plans to partner with the newly reorganized Youth Advisory Board at Cassville High School to help support the department’s goals.

“They have great ideas,” she said. “These kids are interested in everything. I’m very excited. The group was part of our communities years ago.”

The bottom line, Kammerlohr said, is the city wants its residents to feel safe, and its officers work hard to ensure that.

“There is a lot they do to help that people don’t know about,” she said. “They have to enforce the law and when laws are broken they have to do their job, but people don’t see their hearts and what they give back, because they do it in secret.”

The city will know if the grant was awarded this fall.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: