“It is too bad Sedalia’s police and sheriff’s department ignores its vast criminal element. ... The whole town has turned into a criminal’s paradise. Maybe a vigilante like Batman is needed,” insisted one person who contributed to the most recent Sedline column.
And in response to that, I would like to introduce you to the Greater Batman Escalation Theory. The basic idea is this: Let’s say there was a vigilante in a cape, a mask and a belt full of gadgets hauling in the criminals by any means necessary, short of killing them.
The criminals of Sedalia could respond by cleaning up their collective act and we could all live happily ever after because of the looming threat of our friendly neighborhood vigilante, but it would be more likely that the criminals would don masks and become more Batman-like themselves. Regular criminals might decide to become supervillains when faced with a superhero.
All right, it’s not likely that any of us are going to start squeezing into spandex suits and undertake feats of derring-do. (Though “real-life superheroes” do roam the streets of some American cities, calling in crimes and telling shady characters to leave public parks.) But the point is this: It’s not always about having the biggest gun, or the angriest mob or the most batlike man when it comes to combating the perceived criminal menace.
Sometimes you’ve got to outsmart them rather than hoping they’re sufficiently impressed by the piece you’re flashing.
I wrote a column a few months ago where I insisted that modern Sedalia wasn’t significantly more dangerous or prone to crime than the Sedalia of any other era.
Yes, Sedalia, has been victim to a rash of car and home burglaries. Most of them have been happening in east Sedalia, but we’ve got a few in the west, too. I personally know people who have been victimized by the low-lifes who prowl the streets of Sedalia looking for our valuables while we’re at work, at school or in our beds.
But I still don’t buy into the narrative that Sedalia has turned into a hive of scum and villainy with a different gang for every street corner. I don’t buy into the idea that Sedalia is so much worse now than it was in the innocent 1960s, ’70s, ’80s or ’90s.
You wouldn’t believe some of the dark stuff I’ve heard people chuckle about merely because it happened during a time that is deeply nostalgic to them. We’re all quick to give the members of our own generation the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their questionable activities.
But don’t get me wrong: I don’t suffer under any delusion that Sedalia is or has ever been free of drugs, criminals and desperate acts by desperate individuals, and you shouldn’t either. No sizable city has ever been free of the darker tendencies of the human race.
So, let’s talk about doing something about it. But first, let’s get one thing absolutely straight: I don’t know how “vast” it is, but nobody is ignoring Sedalia’s “criminal element,” not the decision makers, not the public and certainly not any of the three law enforcement organizations that have jurisdiction over Sedalia and Pettis County. They’re doing everything they can and should do.
I’ve read the police reports, and there are two kinds of crimes that are more prominent than the others, especially in the first couple weeks of the new year: burglaries and improper motor vehicle operation.
They’re driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license — the bottom line is that these people feel the need to travel and aren’t legally allowed to do it themselves, but they do it anyway. The drunken probably need to get home, and the suspended probably need to get to and from their jobs.
And do you want to know how we can fix this? With more public transportation. We need to either assist OATS in widening its scope or start a Sedalia city bus system to co-exist with OATS so that we can cover the city better.
One of the things that cities like Jefferson City, Columbia, Kansas City and St. Louis have that we don’t is an extensive public transportation system. If we hope to ever match them, or even maintain our current population for the coming years, we might have to get one of our own.
And it seems to me that we might be experiencing this rash of robberies because the local job market is so poor. I know people who put in applications and send out resumes and rarely get so much as an email or a call in return, even if it is to say no.
I know people who can’t get jobs in their fields because some businesses seem to want more easily disposable labor that won’t stick around and collect too many raises.
On the other hand, I know people with high school and college degrees from all over mid-Missouri who don’t seem to mean a whole lot to the people who handle the applications. It seems that reaching the proper middle ground for any situation is tough.
There will always be criminals who break the law, even if you provide them other means to deal with their problems, and there always have been, but I’m not ready to give up on Sedalia.