Blue Springs citizens air grievances over crime
Blue Springs Police Chief Bob Muenz said he understands citizens' frustration about property crimes and the perceived lack of investigation and accountability for thieves and criminals.
But, he told the small group of citizens who gathered Thursday to press police on the issue, the city is not a “free for all” for criminals.
Muenz, joined by a handful of police department employees, listened to few personal stories and answered questions from citizens outside the Howard Brown Public Safety Building. While initially conceived as a protest against the police and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, the gathering was moderated by Latahra Smith of the KC Freedon Project. Baker was invited, but told organizers she would not able to attend and had spoken with Muenz.
One citizen organizer, Vicki Briles, shared correspondence she had with Baker, who wrote that her office files charges in about 87 percent of property crime cases presented by police, but “I can't make the police submit cases to me,” and generally such cases are hard for police to solve and rarely get submitted for review, hence the high file rate.
In her message, Baker said her office has a good partnership with the chief. Muenz echoed that sentiment to the crowd.
Muenz said property crimes are difficult all around.
“Many times, you have very little evidence and very little suspect information, and still they took something that's valuable” to victims
The chief estimated his department is able to get charges from about one-fourth of property crimes it encounters.
John Town, a contractor, said criminals target Blue Springs because police are too lax.
“They know they can just commit crimes and get away,” he said.
When asked why Blue Springs police don't chase criminals even if they're caught in the act, Muenz said the department has a fairly common restrictive pursuit policy, which involves not chasing for non-violent offenses, including property crimes. It's a matter of balancing liability and safety against the possibility of catching a criminal, he said.
“We're not going to put the community at risk for a property crime,” he said. “Our insurance company won't support that.”
Regarding the rash of catalytic convertor thefts from vehicles in the city – and elsewhere in the metro area – Muenz said that will go down “when it's not profitable to do so,” meaning that scrap metal dealers don't pay for the car parts. He added that BSPD has an officer who is part of an unofficial regional task force investigating that particular crime.
Briles later said the chief's presence Thursday, and willingness to talk further, was “huge,” and she did not know charges had been filed in her theft case that she detailed until Muenz explained so during the meeting.
Muenz said that shows police can always strive to communicate more with the community.
“I think we can always do better,” he said.
Muenz acknowledged how citizens can perceive city isn't safe because of property crimes.
“Perception is reality,” he told the crowd, “and our job as a police department is to change that perception.”
“We can't make everybody happy, but we're doing our best.”