Community Focus Report

Public Order & Safety

New Resources Address Aftermath of Crime, While More Measures Needed to Curb Uptick

An expansion of resources, alternatives to incarceration and enhanced programs and technology have all served to address crime, order and safety in our community. Yet rising crime, including homicides and property thefts, continues to be a significant challenge, according to a new Public Order & Safety white paper (pdf) released today from the Community Focus Report.

This year, the Community Focus Report — the biennial report card of strengths and challenges in Springfield and Greene County — is releasing detailed white papers focused on the 11 key areas ahead of the printed report, which will be released on Oct. 21.

One Blue Ribbon is expanding resources. Thanks to voters approving a ½-cent general revenue tax in 2017, the new Greene County Jail is slated for completion in spring 2022. It will house the office for the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and up to 1,407 beds for inmate, double the number as the old facility.

At the same time, alternatives to incarceration are having a positive effect. The Greene County Adult Treatment Courts – including Co-Occurring Disorders Court, DWI Court and Veterans Treatment Court – place a felony offender suffering addiction into supervised programs for treatment, life-skills training and accountability. Through the Prosecutor’s Restorative Justice Program, offenders also do community service and restitution.

The tax also helped fund the Greene County Family Justice Center, now in its new location, where victims of domestic violence can access 22 partner resources. Two partners, The Victim Center and Harmony House, have provided two in-house victim advocates who work directly with the Springfield Police Department to help victims.

Opening in 2020, Burrell Behavioral Health’s Behavioral Crisis Center-Rapid Access Unit provides a 24/7 destination alternative to jail or emergency departments when first responders encounter people experiencing a mental health crisis. The RAU was made possible through community collaboration and public-private partnerships.

Enhanced technology, another Blue Ribbon, also is helping first responders. The trunked radio system used by area public safety departments is being upgraded, and starting in January 2021, SPD officers began using body-work cameras, the result of new funding. Unfortunately, a shortage of recruits in law enforcement nationwide also has affected the SPD, with the number of applicants dropping from 426 in 2019 to 203 in 2020. Adjustments in pay and minimum requirements are addressing that problem.

In addition, vacant building fires have increased, with poverty as the root cause. While many fires are deemed accidental, often because of illegal activities such as warming or cooking, other fires are set on purpose. Like other safety issues, community-wide solutions through collaboration between agencies, another Blue Ribbon, will be needed to solve this uptick.

The complete list of Blue Ribbons and Red Flags for Public Order & Safety can be found in the white paper (pdf).

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