Last year alone, more than half of all violent crimes in Columbia went unsolved. Startling statistics show that the number of drug search warrants served by police dropped by 90 percent in ten years. In 2002, Columbia police served nearly 80 warrants. In 2012, police only served 14 warrants.For nearly a month, Boone County Sheriff’s deputies have joined the fight to serve more search warrants within city limits. However, Columbia police say they welcome the help but are taking a different approach.ABC 17 News learned through city leaders that the drop in search warrants may have to do with 1501 Kinloch Court. That is the home where officers ended up shooting a man’s dog during a SWAT team raid stemming from a search warrant for marijuana. That botched raid two years ago is still affecting crime in Columbia today according to someLocal leaders have made it clear that there is a connection between drugs and violent crime, estimating 90 percent of the shootings stem from narcotics. “And when you reduce drug enforcement, the violence seems to go up,” said Dale Roberts, the director of the Columbia Police Officer’s Association.Roberts says drug enforcement by way of search warrants dropped off after officers shot a dog while trying to protect themselves.”There was tremendous public backlash from that,” Roberts explained.”The community calls the shots and this community has said, ‘we don’t want the heavy handed approach, we want a rational, considered approach to search warrants,'” countered Columbia City Manager Mike Matthes.From 2002 to 2006, Columbia police averaged more than 70 drug search warrants a year and solved about 70 percent of violent crimes. But the numbers have decreased ever since.Last year, 14 drug warrants were served in a city with a population of 108,000 and less than half of all violent crimes were solved.In Jefferson City, a city with a population of just 43,000, police last year worked with a drug task force and served 35 drug search warrants. While the numbers show one side, Roberts says officers are worried about perception.”The perception in the public’s eye that they aren’t doing their job simply because the public doesn’t know the whole story,” said Roberts.He says the rest of the tale involves cops who are “ready, willing and able” to do more, but the people in power are preventing them from doing so.When ABC 17’s Janai Norman questioned Matthes about that claim, he replied: “Well, ya know, what are they talking about?” asked Matthes. “Saying stuff like that to the press is easy to say and then hide behind the veil of the [Fraternal Order of Police].”Matthes says search warrants do not impact crime. In fact, he says nationally the use of search warrants is trending downward. In Columbia though, the violence is not.”So, who’s responsible for bringing down crime? Ya know, I don’t know,” said Matthes. “We certainly do everything we can to do that, but at the end of the day we’re not the bad guys.”Chief Ken Burton was unable to go on camera, but via email, he told ABC 17 News that the CPD has added levels of accountability and upped standards for serving search warrants using dynamic entry, likely stemming from the 2010 raid on Kinloch Court.City Manager Matthes says the command staff is actively trying to break the crime trends, but it may just not be possible at this time due to budget cuts.”Doing more search warrants won’t impact those violent crime rates,” Matthes said.So what will impact the crime rates and how can officers put a stop to the violence in the city?”We’re really analyzing where they are happening and let’s put cops where the crimes are happening and that seems to be working,” Matthes explained.Matthes also says the department’s downtown unit has “worked miracles” in reducing crime, but the unit was disbanded “not permanently” a couple months ago to go back out on patrols.He also says budget concerns and a lack of officers led to those reassignments. Those budget concerns are still around, but CPD has been able to put extra patrols in problematic areas. He says while the city has been growing, the department has not been able to add more officers.”The amount of cops we have per person is dropping, that’s a bad situation to be in,” said Matthes.But it’s money and the lack of it that serves as the biggest hurdle in terms of growth within the department and crime prevention within the city.”We’re doing the right thing, but we don’t have enough resources to do it everywhere at all times,” Matthes stated.Matthes told ABC 17 News that he and other city leaders have accomplished four out of the 14 recommendations made by an outside agency after reviewing the police department and finding the culture to be “toxic.”
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