Branson leaders aim to cut down rise in crime

BRANSON, Mo Crime continues to be a problem in the Ozarks, including destination cities like Branson.

Branson is like any other town, with its fair share of crime. City leaders are working to change that.

Cory Draper says, "What town doesn't have crime?"

He saw it for himself a few days ago.

"Coming here to this Walmart, some guy was running through the parking lot, and there were cops," he explains.

Donald Tharpe grew up in Branson.

"Nowadays, I don't know if it really matters where you live," he says.

He knows crime can be much worse.

"We tried to get away from it living in Wichita, gangs seem to be over running the schools, and it wasn't a place I wanted my kids to be," he explains.

He moved back to Branson to raise his family. Still, he has noticed an increase in crime over the past few years.

"Our kids are instructed to not talk to the people who are walking down the street because you don't know who they are or what they're about," he says.

Officials have reported an 11 percent increase in overall crime. Retail related crimes, like shoplifting, saw a 14 percent jump.

Neighbor's like Tharpe say the problems here involve more than just petty theft and doesn't feel like city leaders acknowledge it.

"Basically, swept under the rug, like it doesn't exist in Branson," he says.

According to Mayor Karen Best's state of the city address, changes are coming.

The city will partner with other enforcement agencies. Officials are working with a Springfield security company to keep watch over the landing and strip. This frees up the police department to handle the 15 percent increase in calls for service.

Plans Tharpe says will secure his family's safety.

He says, "It's nice to know that she (Mayor Karen Best) cares."

Officials say that although there is a rise in crime, the city is small enough to make large improvements with the help of the community.

A state of the city meeting will be held at the Starlight Theatre Thursday, April 21 for anyone who wants to know more about what's going on in Branson.

Doors open at 7:30 in the morning for Good Morning Branson! hosted by Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.

The cost is $10 for chamber of commerce members, $15 for non-members.