Cape's theft rate double the national average, but close to half of stolen items each worth less than $50

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Some people come to Cape Girardeau to shop, some to work, and some to steal.

Coming in at just under 38,000 in 2010, Cape Girardeau's population often doubles, and on certain occasions triples, during the day due to those who travel to the city. The population surge, Cape Girardeau Police Department chief Carl Kinnison said, is a significant reason the city has double the national average in thefts. Yet 42 percent of the thefts are valued at less than $50, he added.

In 2010, the city reported 1,911 thefts. About 85 percent of the thefts were valued at less than $200, according to Kinnison.

So far this year, Kinnison said, police have recorded 889 thefts. He said the reports indicate there are 50 thefts for every 1,000 people. The national average, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting system, is 21 thefts for every 1,000 people.

"We have both a daytime population and a nighttime population," Kinnison said. "Any hub for activity is always going to show a higher crime rate."

Still, other crimes reported in Cape Girardeau -- burglary, homicide, arson and others -- rank lower than the national average or exactly the same, Kinnison added.

Just a few Missouri cities rank higher than Cape Girardeau for theft rates. Joplin, Mo., recorded 53 thefts for every 1,000 people, and Springfield, Mo., reported 77 thefts for every 1,000 people.

Kinnison said Cape Girardeau has always recorded high numbers for crimes of theft. A reason for that, in addition to the daily surge of people, is that the Cape Girardeau Police Department has no threshold on what residents businesses can report stolen.

Kinnison said people have reported 25-cent beach balls and $1 flamingo lawn ornaments stolen.

"Some departments have thresholds. If it's not a certain amount, they won't report it. But I think it depends on the agency and the size of the community," Kinnison said.

The police department follows up on as many theft reports as possible, Kinnison added. Annually, the department clears 20 percent of thefts, 8 percent higher than the national average.

Police urge residents to do all they can to reduce the risk of theft happening to them. Don't leave valuables, such as cellphones, purses and wallets, in an unlocked vehicle, for instance, Kinnison said.

Many of the reported instances are thefts from vehicles, Kinnison said, although recently the department has seen a surge in prescription drug thefts. He said they see anywhere from 25 to 35 reports of that per month.

Yet police suspect they are false reports. In order to get replacement drugs, a consumer must file a police report, he said.

"We report it, we send it in [to UCR], but it's hard to prove," Kinnison said. "In all honesty, they don't get much follow-up attention."

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

40 S. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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