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Public-private partnership urged for public safety 

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Last edited 3:23 p.m., Oct. 7, 2021

Policing concerns dominated the public comment period of Monday’s Springfield City Council meeting, with one business owner stepping up to promote public-private partnerships to help combat crime. 

Curtis Marshall, owner of Tie & Timber Beer Co., recognized crime as a challenging issue. 

“These are difficult problems that we’re discussing tonight, and it would be naive of all of us to think that there are simple solutions,” he said. “Effective public safety has many moving cogs.” 

Marshall spoke of the importance of getting everyone involved in public safety. 

“I do not believe public safety is or should it be the sole responsibility of the public sector,” he said. “There is a role to play between the public, private and nonprofit arenas.” 

Marshall pointed to some of the successes of what he referred to as the Pickwick business district in cutting down on crime in the area of Pickwick Avenue and Cherry Street. He said four years ago, two vacant buildings north of Pickwick on Cherry Street that had previously been the site of drug activity and prostitution were developed with city support. 

“This development also served as a catalyst for development throughout the Pickwick district,” he said, adding, “the Pickwick business district is safer today than it was four years ago due to the collaboration between the private and public sectors.” 

Marshall asked council to think of the successes in the district as an example for other parts of the city. 

Marshall took an upbeat view of the city’s progress. 

“I believe our city is trending in a very positive direction,” he said. “Let’s heed these red flags that we’re seeing today, create some appropriate stop-gap measures to address minor crime, commit to our longer-term solutions and look forward to the brighter future that we all know is possible.” 

Marshall spoke alongside some of his fellow Rountree neighborhood residents, who raised concerns about recent criminal activity. 

Laurel Bryant, who described herself as a neighborhood advocate, related an incident involving three teenagers who were threatened by adults after walking on the stone wall on their property in the neighborhood just south of Rountree. A man came from behind the house to brandish what Bryant called an assault-type weapon at the boys.

Bryant said she knows people from her own and other neighborhoods, and they say they are afraid to speak out about crime because of the possibility of retaliation.

“I’m here to ask, where do we draw the line?” she said. “Beyond being however many officers short, what can be done now to make our citizens feel safe?”

“We neighbors do want to partner with police, with the city staff, with the City Council. … The time is now.”

Bryant’s son, Ambrose Layton, 12, also addressed council about a shooting that had taken place right in front of his house in the 1000 block of South Weller Street.

“It’s really scary because you would never think that this would happen,” he said. 

Layton recounted that he was sitting on his couch and watching TV around 9 p.m. Sept. 27 when he heard repeated gun shots. He said he went low and pulled his dogs to the floor with him. After the incident, he called police and his mother. 

“It’s insane to think that this happened right in front of my house,” he said. 

Afterwards, he joined police and neighbors outside. There, police had located a number of bullet casings left behind by motorcyclists who had retaliated after being cut off in an apparent road-rage incident, according to a police report. No injuries were reported from the incident, but damage from bullets was found in a house and a car. 

Layton offered a bottom-line assessment: “We need to stop gun violence,” he told council. 

He added, “I think that this is horrible. So what are we going to do about it?” 

Mayor Ken McClure thanked Layton for speaking up.  

“I know that was a terrifying experience. It has no place in Springfield, and I’m grateful for your comments tonight,” he said. 

Council members also thanked Layton for coming to speak out about his experience. 

Councilperson Craig Hosmer said the Springfield Police Department is working on it. 

“They’re going to take it very, very seriously, and they hope to find the people that did this and make sure that there’s appropriate penalties for that,” he said. 

Councilperson Richard Ollis, who said he lives in Layton’s neighborhood, expressed concern. 

“This type of activity with gunfire and motorcycles racing around the community is very, very troubling, and I certainly hope we’re able to get our arms around it,” Ollis said. 

Police Chief Paul Williams said he shares Layton’s views that gun violence is an urgent problem. 

“Gun violence, as I’ve reported before, is probably the No. 1 … problem facing the city – and we’ve been working diligently to try to combat that,” he said. “It’s equally frustrating for the officers to get there and pick shell casings up in the roadway and not have any means of tracking down who left them there.” 

Councilperson Abe McGull said everyone in the area knows when the motorcycle sounds are likely to occur, usually from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on summer and fall nights. He suggested having an officer stationed on Glenstone Avenue at that time to send a message to people committing those acts. 

Williams said officers have patrolled during that time periodically, with enforcement and a more visible presence.  

“That’s been sporadic at best, but something we’ll continue to try to work on,” he said. 

He added that officers must weigh the benefits of stopping versus chasing the motorcyclists, and that collaborative efforts are being planned with the Missouri State Highway Patrol using air units. 


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