SIKESTON - The first dollar from Sikeston's sales tax, approved by voters in February, has yet to be received but already the Sikeston Department of Public Safety is seeing results.
Sikeston DPS Chief Drew Juden explained to the members of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce the benefits already accrued by the department and, in turn, the citizens of Sikeston. Juden was the guest speaker during the SACC meeting Thursday.
In the past year, DPS has promoted three individuals to the position of sergeant and hired three additional officers. By increasing shift strength, Juden said, his department now has "more officers out there protecting our citizens."
In addition, the police department has created what Juden described as a "power shift." This group of officers targets high crime areas during their watch.
Also a priority during the past year is the effort to ensure a safe school environment. And, Juden noted, all officers received a welcomed salary adjustment.
"Currently we are at full staff," said the chief. "This is the first time we have been in that position since I took over. Back then, we had 17 vacancies."
Emphasizing he will take a pro-active approach in public safety within the community, Juden noted Sikeston DPS will continue with its "holiday roundups," where warrants are served and arrests made prior to holidays. The Department is currently working with federal and state grand juries and arrests will soon be made in conjunction with these, he said.
Also he pointed out during the past year, DPS has sought to shut down the use of illegal gaming machines in Sikeston and has worked with "America's Most Wanted" in arresting an Indianapolis bank robber.
Juden did express concern about the recent incident where an officer was shot at and the search for one of the two assailants is continuing.
Not all their work has involved criminals. The chief pointed out his department was the number one area fire agency for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in collecting money through the "Fill the Boot" campaign. Also the officers assisted with fund-raiser for the CP Center.
"Best of all, we are murder free for the first time since 1999," noted Juden. "I hope I'm not jinxing this but I hope we will make it through the year without having one."
Following a visual presentation on the department the chief addressed DPS' future. The Department hopes to add two officers who will concentrate on narcotics investigations, hire a communications person and fill a new position of evidence custodian.
"Another big project is to develop a citywide camera system," said Juden.
A similar system was reviewed at a town in Illinois. The chief said if implemented in Sikeston cameras would be placed on poles at locations such as schools, parks or high crime areas.
"This would give us an opportunity to do some things as we target the criminal element," he explained. "We want to try to continue to be pro-active, taking on new projects and not being afraid to try something new."
A final goal is the remodeling of the building which currently houses the Department of Public Safety. Juden said the building is in need of new roof and "becoming more and more cramped."
He urged the SACC members and other members of the public to come by. "We always have an open-door policy," said Juden. Miner Police Chief Roger Moore was also scheduled to be a guest speaker at the meeting but was unable to attend because of duty.
Missy Marshall, executive director of the SACC, announced the new maps for Sikeston-Miner have arrived and are available at the Chamber office, 1 Industrial Drive.