Crime in the city of Branson continues to be a topic that has social media comments swirling.
At the virtual March 18 Branson Board of Aldermen study session, Branson Police Chief Jeff Matthews presented the Branson Police Department’s 2020 Annual Report.
The report shows the following information for 2020:
- Total incoming calls decreased 4% with most of the reductions being recorded on the administrative line
- 2020 dispatch calls showed an increase of 0.08%
- Slight decrease in police calls by 2.86%
- Moderate decrease in fire calls by 14.48%
According to the report, the top five police calls for service were: suspicious person/activity (2711), traffic stop (2205), welfare check (1356), stealing (1173) and information (1117).
In January 2021, the police department reports having a 4% increase in police calls when compared to January 2020.
2020 calls that saw increases include: assaults, commercial burglaries, disturbances, domestic assaults, mental illness contacts, injury crashes and drug overdoses.
“A couple of the calls I’d like to highlight are, the disturbances: these are order maintenance type calls and often result in no crimes,” said Matthews. “Domestic assaults: we continue to see tourists involved in these types of offenses. Drugs: drugs continue to drive much of our activity. Mental illness: mental illness calls continue to strain operations, we are seeing many repeat clients that often receive minimal long-term care. We’re currently working with our partners to find solutions to these problems.”
The Branson Police Department continues to reinforce the “Dial 911” campaign for all public safety needs. A non-emergency number is no longer published.
Crime mapping and online reporting:
The Branson Police Department offers citizens several access points to review police activity and to report crimes.
According to the report, the department received 208 online reports in 2020.
The provided online mapping software allows citizens to review reported incidents, lists police incidents reported to 911 and is updated daily. However, crime mapping data may not match the reported UCR data.
“Citizens have the ability to track police activity online,” said Matthews. “However, I caution you, the information provided is pulled from our dispatch activity and may not track the actual outcome of the police call for service. The online crime mapping is available through a link on the P.D.’s webpage.”
Everyone can access the crime mapper at bransonmo.gov/216/Police
Uniform Crime Report (UCR):
According to the report, Branson Police Department voluntarily participated in the FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) program through the Missouri Highway Patrol. In January 2021 the hierarchical UCR system was replaced with the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS).
Moving forward, crime statistics will look much different due to there being no way to compare UCR data to NIBRS data because the two record data differently, according to the report.
“In previous updates I’ve shared the fact that UCR is being replaced with the National Incident Based Reporting System or NIBRS,” said Matthews. “This system officially launched in January. 2020 is the last year of UCR data, moving forward all crime data will be reported through NIBRS. UCR is a highoricial system that counts the highest criminal offense, and only the highest criminal offense in a crime spree. NIBRS on the other hand counts all crime in incidents included in a crime spree. In 2021 we will see more crime incidents because all crime incidents are counted in NIBRS compared to only the highest level crime in UCR.”
All offenses reported to the Branson Police Department are included in the UCR Report, including several offenses that occurred in prior years but were not reported till 2020.
Part I Crime is down 18%. However, violent crime is still up 16%. According to the report, there are no unidentified suspects in any 2020 reported violent crime cases due to the majority of violent crime being relational and involving known suspects.
According to the report, patrol accountability measures and proactive policing are playing a significant role in Branson’s crime picture. The geographic policing philosophy assigns officers to sectors and requires a focused approach to crime reduction and police service needs.
There is also additional information that suggests that big box stores having COVID-19 related door greeters may play a role in the decreased larceny offenses. According to the report, in 2020 Branson’s two Walmarts reported shoplifting had decreased by 31.43%.
Part II Offenses, categorized as lesser offenses then Part I Offenses, showed offences such as drugs being up 8.75%; simple assault being down 0.035%; forgery being up 0.012%; and all Part II Offenses being down a total of 2.08%.
According to the report, the department continues to focus on illegal drug use and abuse. In 2020 several Branson narcotics investigations were adopted by Federal partners and led to multiple arrests and large drug seizures across multiple states.
2020 drug seizures led to the collection of 314,071.78 grams being confiscated in various drug types; the highest being 226,174.68 grams of marijuana and 79,837.8 grams of THC items.
The department experienced a 60% increase in drug overdoses and a 40% increase in drug overdose deaths in 2020. On March 2, 2021 Chief Matthews hosted a community conversation with regional partners to strategize a coordinated regional response to the drug overdoses and overdose related deaths.
“Now let’s focus on the overdoses as they are a real problem,” said Matthews. “Last year many organizations provided free narcan to reduce drug related overdose fatalities. Unfortunately, I believe the availability of narcan has produced significant increases in overdose incidents. In 2019 we were seeing heroin and fentanyl linked overdoses, now the trend is methamphetamine and fentanyl linked overdoses. I’m afraid the current picture on the U.S. border is such that we will see greater amounts of methamphetamine coming out of Mexico and this will perpetuate our drug overdose problems in the U.S.”
Total crashes and injury crashes decreased approximately 30% to align with COVID-19 tourism reductions.
According to the report, in 2019 the department changed their crash response policy and only dispatches police to injury crashes or crashes that require wreckers or roadway clean-up.
This move has significantly reduced police dispatched crash responses.
The top five crash locations in 2020 were Branson Hills Pkwy/Hwy 65 (17), State Hwy 248/James F. Epps (10), Branson Landing/Roundabout (9), Gretna/Deer Valley (7), Main St./Lloyd (7), and Fall Creek/River Valley (6).
There were 80 calls for service regarding panhandling, in comparison with 115 calls in 2019.
According to the report, the courts guarantee a person’s first amendment rights to stand in public places with signs and infringing upon these rights is illegal.
To reduce occurrences, the Branson Police Department continues to work with local property owners to ensure owner’s trespass orders are adhered to. Officers also enforce city ordinance when they observe offenders soliciting from roadways due to this being a life safety issue and is prohibited by statute.
“Panhandling impacts communities beyond people soliciting on street corners,” said Matthews. “The mere presence of panhandlers can create a perception of crime. I understand that a person’s perception of crime is real and often is heightened by conversations across our social media platforms. Again, the fear of crime is real and we as police department’s across the country work hard to reduce the fear of crime in our communities.”
To see the report in its entirety and to get more information on code enforcement, animal control, training, grant awards, community engagement and more, visit ‘Agendas and Minutes’ under the ‘Government’ tab at bransonmo.gov
To watch the live streamed video of the study session visit ‘CityofBranson’ on YouTube or click the ‘Live Stream’ link on the city’s website.