Thefts pose complex challenge but overall threat is down

Jan. 14—The nonviolent taking of valuable property requires cooperative witnesses, hard work by law enforcement and a little bit of luck to resolve.

Such efforts seem to be paying off, based on 2023 data. The Council on Criminal Justice, an Atlanta research firm, found residential burglary in select cities across the country fell by 3.8% from summer 2022 to the same time in 2023, and nonresidential burglary fell by 5%.

The data reflects an ongoing depreciation of crime spikes seen in 2020 and 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, with its associated economic and social hardships. Making further progress on responding to property crime is a priority, because it often has a relationship with dangerous behavior, Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett said.

"One thing I think people need to know is, a lot of property crime and stealing and burglaries and stuff have a direct nexus to ... violence, weapons, those types of things," Puett said. "We see a lot of property-related crimes that are related to some type of drug nexus, or committing crimes to buy more drugs or whatever the case is."

Determined thieves can seemingly reach into any place and take anything of value, and each case differs in its complexity, or in the chances for a resolution. Katie Burns, who manages a Downtown apartment building, said thieves recently cut the padlock on the trash pickup door, got inside and opened the main door to remove all of the lobby furniture and Christmas décor.

Security cameras did not capture the theft, so Burns holds out hope someone will see, for example, two black leather chairs from the lobby being resold online. All of the property taken belonged to Burns' company, Full Circle Holdings, and it doesn't seem the thieves tried to steal from tenants. Criminals operating close to tenants remains a worry.

"We've never had a car messed with, never had anything bothered, anything, in the 10 years I've been here," she said. "I almost couldn't believe that it happened when it happened. I feel like I am responsible for keeping my tenants safe, and I feel like I didn't do that this time. It's very frustrating to me. And nobody wants their stuff taken, you know? It's very aggravating."

Puett recalled a case from out in the county where thieves stole scrap metal from trailers and other sites, before shipping it south to Kansas City for re-sale. Solving that case required time, witness cooperation and help from partner agencies. Puett said he hopes victims know that no matter how mundane or bloodless the crime may outwardly seem to be, it is taken seriously.

"To say that it's completely benign and not without violence, or value or of concern I think is false, because I think it's all interrelated," he said.

Except in cases of emergency, those wishing to report a crime can use the St. Joseph Police Department's online filing form at www.stjosephmo.gov/597/Online-Crime-Reporting, or call dispatch at 816-271-4777. For emergencies, dial 911.

Marcus Clem can be reached at marcus.clem@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowClem