Robbery numbers on the rise in Columbia

Home invasions have been on the rise in Columbia, according to the Columbia Police Department.

"We are aware of an upswing in criminal activity," Columbia police Sgt. Ken Hammond. "Home invasion" is not the official name of any crime but a general term for first-degree burglary or first-degree robbery, Hammond said.

In a first-degree burglary, someone enters a person's home with the intent to commit a crime. In a first-degree robbery, the criminal steals someone's property and uses or threatens violence against them, according to Missouri statutes.

Over the past 30 to 60 days, there have been more home invasions than usual, Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm said.

"There have been more home invasions this year than last year," MU student Glenn Rehn said.

Rehn was the victim of a home invasion in September. A man entered his house late at night through an unlocked door with a knife and threatened him and his roommate.

Rehn's roommate was stabbed with the knife and Rehn was tied up in his room with an alarm clock cord. The suspect then fled in Rehn's car and crashed it into a building while police pursued him.

Rehn said that since the invasion, he and his roommates lock their doors more frequently and have spoken to their neighbors about the home invasion. Rehn said this is the first home invasion in his neighborhood, but his roommate has been threatened in that area.

"My former roommate was accosted by teenagers in front of the house one day," Rehn said.

The Columbia Police Department does not have a specific policy for handling home invasions. Normally, the cases are assigned to the investigative unit, Boehm said.

"Each case is different, and we investigate each one," Hammond said.

Boehm said police take invasions seriously.

"We spend as much time talking to the victims as possible," Boehm said. "We get as much information as we can, and we process the evidence scene to get any physical evidence."

In addition to canvassing the neighborhood, looking for witnesses and examining similar offenses to find a possible pattern, police advertise Crime Stoppers heavily. Crime Stoppers is a way for people to give police anonymous tips about crimes.

The department asks the community to do everything they can, which includes reporting suspicious activity. While home invasions are on the rise, the city has no plans to hire new officers. It is a budgetary matter that needs city approval, Boehm said.

Most of Columbia's home invasions are not random acts, he said. The suspects usually know the victims or have dealt with them in the past.

"We have not seen any particular trends, but very few appear to be random acts," Boehm said.

Typically, home invasions are drug-related. Either the suspects or the victims are involved in the narcotics world, Boehm said.

Suspects are typically armed in home invasions.

"There is almost always some kind of weapon, typically a handgun," Boehm said.

According to the Columbia Police Department Web site, there have been 109 robberies and 452 burglaries this year in Columbia.

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