OPINION |

by Patrick Haenni, Springfield

Last year, Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams spoke with KY3.  During this interview he insisted the average Springfield resident does not need to worry about their safety and said Springfield has little random violent crime. 

This statement may come as a surprise to those Springfieldians who have watched the steady increase in violent crime that has taken place since his hiring in 2010.  It may surprise those who read an article by CBS News in 2020 that ranked Springfield 5th in the nation in a listing of Most Dangerous Cities in the United States.

But is there actual data to support these rankings?  A look at FBI crime statistics shows this to be the case. Of the 162 most populous cities (from 2010 to 2019), Springfield tied only one other city with the highest increase in violent crime.  

During the tenure of Chief Williams, violent crime in Springfield doubled over the last decade (2010 to 2020) from 1,328 incidents to 2,675. Aggravated assaults are defined as serious assaults where the offender uses a weapon or the victim suffers severe bodily injury. These types of serious assaults rose 131 percent.  In addition, murders have also doubled and, more concerning, assaults by firearm (2010 to 2019) have increased an incredible 694%.

One of the most personal and violent crimes is sexual assault.  In 2020, St. Louis recorded 81 sexual assaults per 100,000 citizens, and Kansas City had 76.  Springfield recorded 125 sexual assaults per 100,000.  In 2019, Springfield’s reported rapes were over eight times the national rate. 

The average tenure of a police chief is typically about three years. Chief Williams has now been at the helm of the Springfield Police Department for over a decade.  After watching the city’s descent into violence over the past 10 years, it is obvious that a change in leadership is desperately needed at the department, and actual leadership on this issue from the Mayor, City Manager, and City Council. 

The past decade has seen a rapid increase in crime. Let’s correct these trends while there’s still time and return our city to an era of safety for which the Queen City was formerly known.  

Patrick Haenni is retired from the Springfield Police Department.