After a stunning 40 vehicles in Grandview, Missouri and 70 in nearby Overland Park, Kansas were broken into last week by brazen burglars, car owners must wonder what can be done.
And it’s not just vehicles.
“Frustration is growing for some Blue Springs (Missouri) homeowners who say their property crime cases aren’t being fully investigated,” Kansas City television station FOX4KC reported in January. One victim of multiple break-ins said her costs have topped $30,000.
Even that huge loss pales in comparison to Don Fairfield’s. The Wyandotte County farmer/logger/trucker’s homestead was picked apart for over $270,000 in vehicles, equipment and tools, and the house was ransacked for everything including used condiments and old bank records the thieves used to create new bank accounts. Equipment that wasn’t taken was torn apart for copper and such.
“They cleaned it out. And what they didn’t steal, they wrecked,” Fairfield told The Heartlander.
So, what can be done? Apparently little, if it’s left solely to the criminal justice system. It seemingly has neither the resources nor the appetite for taking on property crime. For his part, Fairfield says detectives here won’t return his calls, even when he has pertinent information – such as evidence that one of his tractors was headed as far south as Texas.
“They never will” solve the case, Fairfield says. “They’re not into it. That’s not their deal. They’re all Democrats. That’s Wyandotte County.”
Fairfield was planning to move out of state, but “this hastened it.”
One criminal justice worker, speaking openly and candidly with The Heartlander, shared his exasperation with the system and its boilerplate advice to lock car doors and keep valuables out of vehicles – while the system does little itself about the escalating crisis.
“My knee-jerk reaction is always the same: How about you guys work on holding the criminals accountable for their bad behavior?” bail bondsman Brian Underwood says. “I feel like I ought to be able to park my car anywhere in the city – and in particular in my own driveway – and walk away and not wonder about whether or not it’s going to get broken into.”
Nothing may change, he argues, until voting-eligible residents pressure elected officials into making property crime more of a priority.
“I think that resources, for way too many years, have been diverted away from property crime. I don’t think that prosecutors and judges are paying anywhere near enough attention to property crime,” Underwood said. “What do I think people can do? I think that they can hold their local elected officials a little bit more accountable about property crime.
“If the authorities would take the people who are doing this and hold their feet to the fire the way they should be held to the fire, they’d quit breaking into cars. The lion’s share of this would stop.”
A spokesperson for Facebook page “Stolen KC,” which lets users report car thefts to the public, says apartment complexes need to ramp up their security, and tenants need to inquire about it. “People need to be more aware of their surroundings – alert to odd noises when walking to or from their cars, or to cars they feel are acting strange,” the spokesperson wrote to The Heartlander.
Kirk Mata of Wyandotte County, who has had multiple break-ins and thefts, suggests cameras and car alarms – the noisier the better.
Still, FOX4KC reports that in at least one home burglary case, “surveillance and physical evidence left behind wasn’t enough to prosecute. Instead, complaints resulted in finger-pointing between police staff and the Jackson County prosecutor.”
Like police, the Stolen KC spokesperson says the current crime wave has all the earmarks of organized crime organizations or drug cartels. “Like the rash of catalytic converter thefts recently we, too, agree this is being done by organized groups. These groups plan their target areas ahead of time and spread across the area.”
As for the involvement of drug cartels, Underwood tracks arrests in Wyandotte County, and says, “A remarkably high number of the drug arrests in Wyandotte County have a theft component tied in with them.”
But until elected officials hear about it from more residents, victims say it’s likely nothing will be done.