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12-10-2014

City sees alarming
increase in burglaries
Platte City department releases annual stats

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor

Burglaries in Platte City are up an alarming 74 percent.

That's according to statistics compiled by the Platte City Police Department. The numbers were distributed to the city's elected officials and posted online last month.

From Oct. 26, 2013 through Oct. 26, 2014, the Platte City Police Department received 34 reports of burglary. That is a 74% increase from the previous year.

During the previous 12-month period, Platte City police received merely nine reports of burglary and only eight reports of burglary during Oct. 26, 2011-Oct. 26, 2012.

Carl Mitchell, chief of police, said burglaries are up and thefts are down.

“We had a spree of burglaries for about a two month period and that has put us up,” said Chief Mitchell.

At this time, police have not made any arrests in connection to the recent burglaries, but are conducting an on-going investigation.

“We have an idea on a few of them, but we are waiting on forensic evidence to come back,” said Chief Mitchell. “We know a few are related so if we are able to solve one, then we should be able to solve several.”

The explosion of reported burglaries inside the city of Platte City goes against a countywide trend. Cpt. Erik Holland of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department says reported burglaries to the sheriff’s office are actually down by 29% this year.

“This year we’ve had 48 burglaries reported to the sheriff’s office. Thus far we have made arrests or sought prosecution in 25% of those cases,” Holland said this week.

The sheriff’s department does not track statistical information on burglaries that are reported to city police departments.

Aside from burglary, crime offenses have remained fairly steady in Platte City over the past three years.

The department received two reports of criminal sexual assault, 11 reports of aggravated assault, 94 reports of theft, and 12 reports of motor vehicle theft.

Over a 12-month period beginning Oct. 26, 2013, there were a total of 153 crime offenses reported to the Platte City Police Department. During that same time, there were no reported homicides or robberies.

The scale appears to be tipping in Platte City
The crime statistics report also indicates that while the number of traffic citations made by the Platte City Police Department is up 37 percent, DWI arrests have slightly declined over the past couple of years.

Over a 12-month period beginning November 2013, Mitchell said there were 18 DWI arrests. That figure is up by three arrests from the previous fiscal year.

During the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Platte City officers made 24 DWI arrests. In terms of percentages, there was a 25 percent reduction in DWI arrests from two years ago.

That figure may change when compared to year-end statistical data.

In the first 11 months of 2011, Platte City Police arrested a staggering 36 offenders for DWI.

On the opposite side of the scale, other information included in the statistical report released by the department reveals a spike in the number of traffic citations issued by the police department.

Moving and non-moving traffic citations dramatically increased in Platte City in the past year.

There were 1,740 traffic citations, 596 warnings, and 89 general observation summonses issued in Platte City from Oct. 26, 2013 through Oct. 26, 2014.

During that same period in the previous year, Platte City police issued 1101 citations and 687 warnings.

While the number of citations issued this year is a 37 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, the number of warnings issued this year is a 13 percent reduction. It indicates police are issuing more citations and fewer warnings.

When it comes time to handing out citations, several Platte City law enforcement officers are more lenient. From Jan. 1 through Oct. 26, 2014, Officer Burgoyne with the Platte City Missouri Police Department issued 213 citations and 109 warnings. Sergeant Michael Mand issued 222 citations and 97 warnings.

On the other hand, Officer Ruckman appeared to be less lenient on motorists. Ruckman issued 284 citations, which far exceeds the number citations issued by any other Platte City officer over the 10-month period. Ruckman issued just 29 warnings.

According to statistics gathered by the department, Investigator Michael Riley also emerged as a less lenient member of law enforcement. He issued 191 citations and 28 warnings.

Mitchell said traffic citations are issued at the discretion of the officers.

Compliance citations
The Platte City Police Department has changed the way it handles citations.

Mitchell said motorists who commit certain traffic violations are now given a citation rather than a verbal warning, but are given the opportunity to appear in municipal court to show they corrected the infraction.

“As long as they come in by the set court date and show that the headlight or taillight is fixed or registration is now valid, then the ticket becomes a compliance ticket and they don't have to come to court,” said Chief Mitchell. “They don't have to pay a fine.”

Calls for Service and traffic crashes
Other information included in the statistical analysis released by the department shows it received 5,658 calls for service from Oct. 26, 2013 through Oct. 26, 2014.

During the same period in the previous year, the department received 4,784 calls. In terms of percentage, that is a 15 percent increase.

In 2014, the department also handled eight injury traffic crashes and 103 traffic crashes causing property damage to the motorist's vehicle.

Data also indicates there were 11 hit-and-runs, as well as one report of a crash involving a pedestrian.

In 2013, there were 125 total traffic crashes. That was significantly down from the reported 168 traffic crashes in 2012.

A bright spot to the traffic crash analysis reflects no traffic fatalities over the past three consecutive years.

The Financial Numbers
The budget for the city's police department budget is approximately $1.04 million. DJ Gehrt, city administrator, said that is approximately $90,000 less than the previous year's budget of $1,131,608.

During the 2014 fiscal year (Nov.1, 2013-October 31, 2014), the expenditures for the Platte City Police department were approximately $1,011,000.

The Platte City Police Department's largest expenditure is “always staffing,” said Gehrt.

The Platte City Police Department is comprised of a police chief, a lieutenant, three sergeants, six patrol officers, and one administrative staff position.

The department also has 10 part-time reserve officers on the books, which are utilized to fill in for officers on vacation, undergoing training, using holiday time, and utilizing compensated time.

“The personnel costs in FY 2014 were close to $775,000, which includes regular salaries, part-time salaries, overtime pay, FICA, health insurance, LAGERS retirement, worker's compensation insurance and other benefits,” said Gehrt.

That is approximately $12,000 more than what the department proposed it would spend on personnel at the onset of the 2014 fiscal year.

Mitchell earns an annual salary of $76,333.71 in his role as chief. This year he brought home $3,679.71 more than last year.

Lt. Al Devalkenaere earns an annual salary of $55,659.55.

Police sergeants, who are paid by the hour, earn $21.43 to $24.09 per hour and patrol officers, who are also paid by the hour, receive $17.48 to $19.70 per hour.

A quick breakdown of the expenditures indicates that the Platte City Police Department will spend $129,922 on services, $60,895 on supplies, and $4,187 on capital expenses that would include equipment, building improvements, and furniture.

Their budget also reflects a $60,296 allocation for the continual replacement of vehicles and equipment. Gehrt said the proposed calculation will fund the future replacement of not only vehicles and equipment, but other necessary expenses, including replace radios, light bars, mobile communications terminals, as well as vehicular camera systems.

“The theory behind this expenditure is that by the time a vehicle or equipment is worn out and needs replacing, the City has accumulated enough funds in a vehicle replacement account to pay for the replacement vehicle and equipment,” said Gehrt. “In the case of the police department, the $60,296 is a calculated amount to fund the anticipated replacement of the three police patrol vehicles (at the end of their 4 year lives) and the two police investigative and administrative vehicles (at the end of their seven year lives).”

Gehrt said the vehicle and equipment replacement figure is based on a 3% annual price increase for each item and reflects a minimal return value of the worn out item.

“For example, a patrol vehicle purchased in 2015 for $25,000 would cost an estimated $28,150 to replace in 2019,” said Gehrt. “With a four-year life span the annual transfer out asset replacement for that vehicle would be $7,034. We will make the same type of calculation for each vehicle and for each major end item that will need replacement funding. When all of those calculations are added up in FY 2014, the sum was $60,296.”

Gehrt said the city reviews the allocated amount on an annual basis to ensure the calculated figure is based on the actual replacement costs.

The police department is not the only department in Platte City that utilizes this replacement cost mechanism. All city departments designate funds for future purchases.

“The reasoning behind this type of budget is that it provides pay as you go funding for major items, allows us to have consistent expenditure forecasts, and shows the actual fiscal impact of annual operations on the city's assets. Essentially, this budget practice shows the impact of depreciation on the value of the city's vehicles and equipment in police, public works, water, wastewater and solid waste,” said Gehrt.