Housing Authority, DPS partner to reduce crime

Monday, July 23, 2007
City and Housing Authority officials look over one of two vehicles that will patrol Section 8 and public housing areas (Photo Tim Jaynes, Staff)

Four officers hired

SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Housing Authority has partnered with the Sikeston Department of Public Safety to reduce crime by funding new DPS positions.

City officials and Housing Authority board members announced during a special news conference this morning that four people have been hired by DPS and designated as Housing Authority Officers.

Salaries for the four new officers will be paid by the Housing Authority for the next five years.

"I'm very excited about the program," said DPS Director Drew Juden.

Officials described the program as "a cooperative effort" between the city the Sikeston Housing Authority to try to create a safer environment for residents in Section 8 and public housing.

The idea to create DPS positions specifically for public housing areas using Sikeston Housing Authority funds originated from one of its board members.

Bill Mitchell, chairman Sikeston Housing Authority Board, said the intent of the Housing Authority is "to provide for a safe, comfortable environment for the people who reside in our dwellings to have access to -- they deserve it, they are owed it, and we feel this will be a positive step."

Mitchell also credited past housing authority officials who, by operating economically and efficiently, enabled current officials to come up with the funds for this program.

"They're providing all the equipment including the addition of two cars specifically for patrolling public housing properties and section 8," DPS Capt. Mark Crocker noted.

In addition to patrolling with the new cars, these officers will also patrol public housing areas "on foot and on bikes during seasonal weather that will allow for that," Crocker said. "We're doing this to kind of give a little closer, personal service because we've noticed a dramatic increase in crime on the public housing properties over the last few years."

The city has had a 39 percent increase in calls for service from 2005 to 2006, according to DPS reports.

Juden said the problems do not originate from the residents of Housing Authority areas, but from unauthorized visitors to those residences.

"Those are the individuals we are going to specifically target," he said.

"I want to send a message out throughout the region that all these punks and thugs and gangbangers thinking about coming to Sikeston to act up, you better think again because we're not going to put up with it. We're going to arrest you and throw you in jail," said Mayor Mike Marshall. "And all you punks, thugs and gangbangers that are here now: you better pack your satchel up and get out of town because we're coming after you."

Candidates for the new positions were interviewed about two weeks ago and have already been filled. The Housing Authority Officers are Shannon Keller, Ryan Dennis, Kevin Harris and Derick Wheetley.

"They originally wanted to propose payment for three officers, When we did the interviews, the Sikeston Housing Authority board actually liked the officers enough they wanted to hire four," Crocker said.

"All four individuals were more than qualified," Juden said.

Juden said the program will begin this week with two of the officers surveying residents to determine what their needs and concerns are in their neighborhoods.

In addition to conventional patrols in public housing areas, Housing Authority Officers will go door-to-door, visiting with public housing residents to build personal relationships.

In addition to benefitting public housing residents, with four more officers to patrolling the city at no additional cost to taxpayers, "it's obviously going to provide additional security for the remaining residents in the city," Juden said.

"The whole community needs to be aware that the housing Authority, through its efforts through the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority and now through the Department of Public Safety, has been very forward in taking the lead to bring about this improved community environment that the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority and DPS are trying to achieve," Mitchell said.

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