Citizens voice concerns about police, crime

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 10/16/19

BELLE — Nearly 30 citizens upset about rising crime rates in town and lack of police patrol lined the walls and filled the chairs at city hall Oct. 8 to talk about their concerns, and discuss …

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Citizens voice concerns about police, crime

Posted

BELLE — Nearly 30 citizens upset about rising crime rates in town and lack of police patrol lined the walls and filled the chairs at city hall Oct. 8 to talk about their concerns, and discuss the possibility of a neighborhood watch.

The Belle Police Department wrote 13 tickets last month, as robberies and theft were reported all over town. Many citizens attending the meeting were threatening violence and admitted to sleeping near a weapon.

Tom Kinsey said he had gone one step further recently and had to hold a trespasser at gunpoint.

“I held a man at gunpoint, and I always said if someone trespasses on my property, I am going to shoot him and I didn’t that night.”

Wade and Logan Guffey came to express their concerns about the September robberies in town. Logan Guffey’s car was broken into and ransacked, along with several others.

“Was it locked?” Turnbough asked.

Logan Guffey’s defensive response was no, but it shouldn’t matter. Her property should be safe where she left it in her driveway.

“Joe, if you don’t start doing something, people are going to start dying,” said Wade Guffey.

The car was parked near their infant son’s bedroom window.

Guy MacClugage has lived in Belle for 18 years.

“I live in Belle, but sometimes I wonder if I am living in Hell,” he said. “I have people selling drugs at my house. I wrote down the plate numbers and gave them to Officer Elrod. Somehow, it got back to them. It put a target on my back.”

Rehna Britton said Belle is her home. She and her husband recently built a home in what they thought was a quiet neighborhood.

“I have things out (side) I didn’t think would have a chance of being stolen, and now I don’t feel comfortable with anything I have sitting outside that is not chained down,” she said.

Tammy Green of Green Cabinet and Green Apartments, addressed the board.

“Since last October, I have gotten many, many calls,” Green said. “That people are door knocking on my tenants and I have a lot of elderly. I had one lady who was sleeping on her couch because she was afraid to sleep in her bed.”

She said she also has young, single women at the apartments that are door knocked who are scared and call her.

“The police know, and they say they can’t catch them,” Green said. “Bubba was called the other day because we had a dumpster diver. We were asked if we wanted to press charges and we said no because we have the other properties there. And the people who are doing all this stuff, we know they’re are druggies, and we don’t want any trouble around our business.”

She said she knows the police patrols around the apartments and cabinet shop, because she sees them during the day.

“But I know listening to the town talk, there are a lot of people who are unhappy and scared,” Green said. “Bubba said the other day, we can’t catch them in our police car.”

Green said they bought three cameras last October and set them in three different places and hasn’t caught them either.

“From what I have heard, they know who it is, and I have told Bubba, you take your lawn chair and set them between buildings to try to catch them,” Green said. “Me as a landlord, I already get phone calls from my tenants.”

Debbie Henley was next, and said a big amount of their taxes go towards police enforcement, but they don’t see anybody.

“I seen a police officer last night at the Mexican restaurant and I have not seen one in over a year,” Henley said.

Henley told the board that Oct. 1, she had an incident with a car speeding through town that almost hit her, then sped to be in front of her on Third Street. She called 911, and never heard anything back from the police.

“I don’t even know who they are anymore other than knowing Joe,” Henley said. “I am home by myself a lot, I grew up around guns, I have a gun, and if someone breaks in, I am going to shoot. But I don’t want to do that.”

Henley said she liked the idea of a neighborhood watch.

Theresa Johnson, a store manager at Dollar General, said this year has been the worst for dumpster diving and theft.

“It’s private property and our dumpster enclosure is an enclosure and is also private,” she said. “We have had locks put on the dumpster even. They are pulling everything out and there are things that contain pertinent business information. They are taking entire bags. How they are getting them out, I don’t know. But they are losing clothing and shoes, and then bragging about losing their shoes, so I know who it is.”

Johnson said the persons bragging are definitely trespassing because they have been banned from the store to begin with.

“Some things gotta be done,” she said. “You call and call and call. Jerry Coborn (Belle officer), is always there. He is in my store every night at some point, whether it is groceries or he is just walking the store.”

She said this year has been the worst for theft.

Cassie and Gavin said their concerns were the break ins and people knocking on their doors and windows at night.

“Luckily it was just our bedroom,” she said. “As soon as it happens to my girls, mama bear is going to come out.”

She said their other concern is on Johnson, and the vehicles that run through the stop signs.

“My girls play outside all the time, and I am just really scared they are going to get hit one of these days,” she said. “One of them, it’s sad to say, ran the stop sign with their business on the side of their truck — it was Shanks Lawn Care. They barrelled through that as fast as they could possibly go.”

Gavin said the city could have purchased a new cop car with the tickets that could have been written right there.

Alderman Ken Stanfield said he chased one down Johnson Ave once.

“The ATVs are getting out of hand and blow through there worst than the vehicle there,” Gavin said. “Luckily the vehicle they broke into didn’t have anything worth stealing in it. We have got to do something.”

Cassie said she didn’t want to tell her kids they can’t go outside because people are driving too fast, or because crazy people are walking by.

“I just want a safe place for my daughters to be raised,” she said. “They are only 10 and 9-years-old. They have their whole lives.”

Alderman Courtney Abel said she recently followed someone, and the lug nuts were loosened on her husband’s tire, and on his way home from work, the whole wheel fell off the truck. Cassie said something similar happened to them.

“On Gavin’s truck, with one of our daughters were in the car, luckily we were slowing down and turning, the whole tire came off the truck,” Cassie said.

Bev and Ty Abel said there has been a lot going on in their neighborhood and Floyd McKinney calling them three or four times in an evening. Ty Abel said he checked out the McKinney place one night and came back around, there was a lantern in the middle of the road, on. He turned it into the police department.

“I don’t know whatever happened to it,” Abel said. “The road next to Maces, I have begged the police to sit back behind my house. You could write 100 tickets a day, for all the people blowing through the stop sign by our house and Maces.”

Ty Abel said it isn’t Vienna that won’t do anything.

“This area should be the problem of the Belle Municipal Judge. Is he not doing his job or is he not getting tickets?” Ty Abel said. “If he is not getting tickets, something is terribly wrong.”

Abel said he taught for 30 years, and when he told a kid not to do something, the next time there has to be consequences.

“And who has to do something? The police,” Abel said. “And if they are not doing their job, then what are we going to do about it? Floyd McKinney is 90 something years old and they are pounding on the side of his house and nothing is being done about it.”

He said the mirror on his truck has been smashed off and the cord on his trailer cut. He gave both to the night officer, and nothing has been done about that.

“It’s getting plum dangerous, and people are at their end of their rope,” Ty Abel said. “I’ve got two grandbabies up a block. If someone blows through that stop sign and kills one of my grandbabies, there is nothing these police can do to stop me from getting to them.”

BrendaLeigh Guffey was a victim of the string of car thefts in September. After she voiced her concerns and asked the board to help them start a neighborhood watch, she addressed the marshal.

Guffey said in the last few years, there have been a lot of incidences that have happened, and they have only gotten worse in the last six months.

“We have gone from theft of yard ornaments and solar lights in people’s driveways to knocking on people’s windows and doors in the middle of the night, scaring the elderly people half to death,” she said.

She added that dumpster divers have been taking and looting items in the middle of the night from businesses in town such as Green’s Cabinet Shop and Dollar General. The dumpster at Guffey Auto is being used as a dump site for mattresses.

Belle Dollar General manager, who introduced herself as Theresa, said dumpster diving has been the worst it has ever been this year also.

“Joe, I love you to death. A nicer guy you will never meet,” Guffey said. “But I haven’t seen you on patrol, I haven’t seen you at the police station, and all these things are going on and I don’t understand where you have been to help protect us and keep us safe."

“People are getting scared, they’re frustrated and they are aggravated because they feel violated,” she said. “Get a meeting together with local law enforcement. I have spoken to Bubba (Sgt. Brian Brennan) and he was more than happy to come speak and give ideas.”

Osage County Sheriff’s Department gives classes to citizens on what they can do, and a Maries County Sheriff’s deputy said Sheriff Chris Heitman would be happy to help.

Ty and Bev Abel said their neighborhood has had a neighborhood watch for going on four years, and it doesn’t do them any good. MacClugage agreed, explaining the police department would have to do something with the information that was given to them in order for something to be done.

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