The act of designating a thief as a trespasser has become an important tool of the Lamar Police Department. According to Chief Kyle Miller, the practice began two years ago as a means to combat degrees of intersecting crime, eventually relating to illegal drug sales in the community. Miller briefed the Lamar City Council on end of year statistics for his department during a Monday evening work session. This was one of several briefings he has provided which offer an overview of where the department is concentrating a lot of their efforts in Lamar. Chief Miller also discussed an estimated 10 to 15 criminal mischief or vandalism acts which occurred in town around the Thanksgiving holiday when swastikas and derogatory markings were spray painted on cars, homes and businesses.
“We’re seeing a drop in assaults, thefts and burglaries as well as in controlled substance cases,” he stated, noting the correlation of a rise and fall of incidences. Overall activity was down for November, “We had one more assault this past month than in 2015, but reports of criminal mischief, DUIs and trespasses are declining,” he explained. The chief said his department has issued more citations recently, but that is translating to more cases being solved and closed out. Miller said citations cover a large amount of incidents such as traffic or criminal offense cases, with the exception of felonies which are handled differently.
“When a person is trespassed from a store, they’re told to leave immediately and that they are barred from returning to that business,” he explained nothing that most of the related theft and shoplifting calls are from Walmart, given the number of daily customers, size of the store and the variety of merchandise. He said the practice began about two years ago and can be used to combat illegal drug sales in town when the stolen merchandise can be used as barter for drugs. Miller noted the number of calls his officers have to respond to can be troublesome, especially if the store manager does not prosecute or ask for an arrest. If the items are under $20, they normally don’t prosecute, but just want them exited from the store. He said that means the police are showing up at a call, but are not asked to make an arrest which wastes time. By adding a trespass charge, the police have some more leeway for an arrest if the person returns to the store.
Regarding the vandalism, Chief Miller explained, “We have some working leads and we are actively following up on those. We have some ideas, but not enough right now to charge someone.” The chief said the department is reviewing a lot of video of those acts, “We’re compiling video from all the area businesses, but there are a lot of figures to go through, so that is still a process. If someone knows something and wants to talk, they can call.” Councilman Oscar Riley asked if the vandals could be charged with hate crime, given the nature of the writings. Miller responded by saying that would be up to the district attorney’s office. One inducement for information would be a reward offered by private citizens. “We considered if the city could place a reward, but that won’t be a possibility,” he explained. Some financial help can be offered by the local VALE board to clean up the markings and some citizens used a power washer the next day to erase of a lot of the paint. Miller added that if the culprits are underage, they cannot be named, but they will be identified if they are of the age of majority.
By Russ Baldwin
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