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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Police Department survey points to citizens' safety concerns

Friday, March 27, 2009

Monett Justice Center
3-30 Police survey


A variety of concerns about safety in Monett came up in a community survey recently conducted by the Monett Police Department. According to Police Chief Tim Schweder, the survey was modeled around a similar questionnaire distributed in 2006.

"There were no significant differences in the results," the chief concluded.

The average age of those answering was 57. Respondents ranged from age 21 to 90. The number of years respondents had lived in Monett ranged from one to 86. The breakdown by sex was fairly representative of the community. Nearly 60 percent of respondents were female.

"Monett citizens were most concerned about drug crimes, burglary and robberies," the report on the survey stated. More than three quarters of respondents identified these three as areas where officers should concentrate. Around two-thirds of respondents ranked vandalism and auto theft as the next highest concerns.

"Underage drinking, domestic violence and forgery/fraud were also rated high," the report stated. Out of a list of specific crimes, drug enforcement was again listed as the top concern by 15 percentage points. Underage drinking and domestic violence were named by two-thirds to three-quarters of respondents as their next biggest concerns.

Offenses considered the least important were nuisance and curfew violations. Only slightly more important were loud parties and trespassing.

Asked about the greatest concerns about crimes that could happen in the respondent's neighborhood, home break-ins got higher marks than any other category, followed by robbery or theft. Vandalism or an attempt to steal or damage a vehicle received the second highest prioritization. Of the choices listed, concern over sexual assault rated the lowest.

According to the report, "84 percent of respondents felt Monett's crime rate was average or less for cities of similar size. Ninety-two percent said they had not considered moving because of crime in their neighborhood. Seventy-four percent thought safety in the neighborhood was not changing or becoming safer."

Opinions about the Police Department were generally positive. "Eighty-eight percent felt the Police Department was average or about in performing its duties," the report stated. "Eighty-nine percent said Monett police officers wree respected in the community."

However, "sixty-eight percent said the department needed some improvement."

Three-quarters of respondents ranked "improved relations with community" as important for improving the department. Similar priority was also given to responding to calls faster and improved training.

Almost half of the respondents said they had contact with officers in the past year. Ninety percent of the respondents indicated they had had some personal contact with officers over time. "Most contacts were with uniformed officers, then by telephone and animal control," the report stated.

Asked to rate the quality of work by officers in three different ways, more than two-thirds of respondents considered performance "very good" or "excellent."

"Respondents felt that police officers should first be accountable for professional behavior, work closely with schools, and concentrate major efforts on crime prevention," the report concluded.

In a ranking of specific activities, respondents also put a high priority on officers encouraging more complete crime reporting by citizens.

Respondents consistently ranked several activities as moderately important. These included officers' ability to recognize neighborhood residents, teaching residents to recognize and report suspicious activity, personally providing guidance to potential juvenile offenders, and helping residents increase perceptions of personal safety.

Chief Schweder considered the survey's findings reinforced what the department does. The work of Detective George Doud almost exclusively on drug crime and Jarrod Jarvis's efforts as school resource officer fit the priorities of "what people like," the chief said.

As for the high prioritization of property crimes, Schweder said. "That's what we concentrate on."

The survey was mailed to 4,000 residents with their utility bills. Only 10 percent were returned. If the survey was done again, the chief said he would like to see a higher percentage of responses. A previous survey went to 2,000 people and got answers from 20 percent with return postage paid by the city. If another survey was done, Schweder said he would also change the questions. The latest survey was very similar to the previous questionnaire.

City Administrator Dennis Pyle said he would favor a different strategy for a future survey. When he worked in Butler, the city hired ETC Institute out of Olathe, Kansas, to conduct a survey by telephone. Targeting a specific demographic sampling, ETC was able to provide results that had statistical significance, with a margin of error of less than five percent using a sampling of 300 people. A general survey like the Police Department's would have no statistical significance.

One feature of the ETC report Pyle liked was a comparison of how Butler answered questions of satisfaction with other cities ETC surveyed. Cost for hiring the firm ran around $5,000. Pyle said he favored doing a survey about all city services in a future venture.

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