I wanted to let the public know about the concern that has seemed to get worse over the past six to eight months in reference to the Owensville Police Department dealing with homeless individuals.
Some individuals have been dealt some bad luck; however, other individuals have been in trouble for other issues and at times don’t seem to care about helping their selves out.
For the citizens of Owensville who know me, I try to get straight to the point. This being said, it has become a pattern I have been receiving phone calls from individuals in reference to these homeless individuals either sleeping in vehicles in the park, sleeping in an alleyway, individuals digging through business dumpsters, or causing other concerns such as peace disturbance, public intoxication, etc.
These phone calls, at times, have become very vocal and demeaning towards myself and the Department that we are not doing anything to try to resolve the issue. When I say “very vocal and demeaning” this means me getting a vulgar ear-full of concerns of why we haven’t put a stop to the above-mentioned situations.
For those of you who are not aware of the new law that went into effect in July 2019 by the Missouri Supreme Court, let me try to explain to you in short. If an officer makes an arrest on an individual, we are not allowed to take the individual to jail to hold them for a warrant unless the officer can provide information to the Prosecuting Attorney that would show cause the subject is a danger to the community or the victim(s).
Meaning, 95 percent of our arrests will not fall under this category which, unfortunately, they have to be released either by a summons or on their own recognizance pending a warrant at a later date.
A majority of the homeless people we now deal with are just that: homeless. These homeless individuals aren’t necessarily committing a violent crime where we would arrest them and transport them to jail. I myself have made steps to try to speak with these homeless individuals and give them contact information for shelters around the State that are willing to assist with shelter and job placement.
We can only offer information; we cannot force individuals to check-into shelters. I know a lot of business owners and citizens of the city are concerned about the issue and the possibility of this getting worse. I can assure you myself and my officers are doing what we can, when we can, within the law that we are allowed to enforce.
I have tried to explain to citizens over the past six to eight months that law enforcement, as we know it, has changed and that our hands are tied to a certain level of what we can do and cannot do. This is very frustrating for me personally as I have no correct answer to fix this issue to make it all go away.
However, whenever I receive a phone call from a subject who is voicing his concern, but in reality I am only getting “cussed at,” this takes its toll on myself mentally.
I understand the COVID-19 virus has caught everybody off guard and if you look hard enough on the internet, some police agencies are “responding only as needed” to dispatched calls and for agencies to “screen their calls” to minimize officer and public contact to prevent the spread of the virus.
However, I want to assure the community this agency will respond to calls when needed in matters of the above-mentioned issue. Just because society is in a situation of uncertainty right now due to the virus, the Owensville Police Department will not “turn a blind eye” to criminal activity that jeopardizes the safety and well-being of this community.
In closing, if you have an issue where a homeless subject is trespassing on your property (i.e. digging in dumpsters, sleeping in the back of your business, etc.) please call the Owensville Police Department so we can respond and address the situation as needed.