SIKESTON -- Progress can take some time. But over the years, those small changes can add up to something big.
And that's why the Sikeston Department of Public Safety is glad to see any drop in crime, no matter what the decrease. And for the most part, that's what happened during the year 2008.
"I think things are better," said Sgt. James McMillen, public information officer. "From last year to this year it seems some things have slightly improved."
He pointed out several areas where advances were made.
"Just looking at the numbers, the things that really stood out to me was that violent crimes were down," McMillen said of the comparison between 2007 and 2008 statistics. "They are, in general, down quite a bit."
Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, he explained. In total, there were 273 violent crimes in 2007, compared to 226 in 2008 -- about an 18 percent drop.
The lone homicide occurred when a Sikeston man died on Christmas Day after he was attacked and robbed in his house earlier in December.
McMillen said that although it's great there was only one criminal homicide in 2008, in comparison to two in 2007 -- and an even bigger drop from the five in 2006, there really is no trend for that crime, or a good way to deter it.
"Murder is typically a spur of the moment, passionate crime," he said.
However, studies have shown drug use can lead to violent crimes and murder. "Violence and drugs seem to go hand in hand -- if we can knock down on the drugs, we can on the violence," said McMillen. "So we can be proactive and have heavy patrols out in the community."
Rapes are the only violent crime that increased between the two years, to 18 total.
"In summary, we have eight more than last year," said McMillen. "But I'm not really sure why."
The number of robberies stayed close to the same with 43 last year, two less than in 2007. And there was a big drop in the number of aggravated assaults, with 164 reported in 2008 as compared with 164 in 2008.
In the realm of property crimes, there was an increase in burglaries but drop in motor vehicle thefts during 2008, while the numbers of thefts and arson remained steady.
Two hundred sixteen burglaries were reported, up about 27 percent from the 170 in 2007, said McMillen. Motor vehicle thefts dropped from 52 to 35 last year, according to the reports.
One possible cause for a drop in some numbers and overall better crime statistics is the beginning of a program with four full-time Public Housing officers, funded by the Housing Authority, in August 2007.
"I think it has made a significant impact in those areas," said McMillen.
He said tenants appear to be more conscientious of what is going on and keeping crime out of their neighborhoods.
"They know that we take a really firm stance," he said. "Now, (the tenants are) practically policing themselves to prevent eviction. They're just scared they're going to get kicked out."
McMillen said he hopes to see the downward trend continue through 2009. That's the way it has been since he began work in the department 10 and a half years ago, something he attributes to added programs, as well as full-time narcotics investigators.
"Progress is just a slow thing," he said.