Part of the Community
the arrests for poaching came from information provided by the public.
In McDonald County, Chris Campbell meets people through neighborhood watch programs. "My county is rural, she says, "so it's important to enlist the help of as many people as possible." She talks to individuals and groups about how they can help stop crime, such as getting a license number or description of a suspect. She tells them to call her anytime, and they don't hesitate to do so. A phone call she recently received at 1:30 a.m. resulted in the arrest of a deer poacher.
To make community policing work, agents must be seen around town, not just at crime scenes. Scott Burger, an agent in Jasper County, helps coach his children's baseball and basketball teams. He gets to know parents, as well as team members. He also takes time to speak to kids he meets at the mall and at church.
"The more you get involved with a community, the more people talk to you about their concerns," Burger says. "Knowing the people speeds up the process. I get information I need about illegal activity in a more timely manner."
Agents aren't the only ones who benefit from the quick flow of information. Just ask Anthony "Jake" Jakuboski, a retired mail carrier from St. Louis. Three years ago, he moved near Bland and wanted to improve his 80 acres for wildlife.
He worked with Kevin Bryant, a conservation agent, who showed him how to convert pasture into food plots for wildlife and how to make brush piles to attract rabbits and quail. "I saw a difference in the abundance of wildlife in just three years," Jakuboski says. "I have more quail, more turkey and more deer, and I even saw signs of a little bear. Kevin showed me how to make casts of one of his tracks."
The real test, however, came when Jakuboski noticed around 100 bluegill dying in his pond. He called Bryant who immediately put him in touch with Robert Pulliam, an aquatic services biologist, who inspected the pond and diagnosed the problem. Bryant called later to make sure everything was going well and continues to keep in touch with Jakuboski, as he does with other landowners in Gasconade County.
Over the years conservation agents, like other law enforcement officers, have relied on up-to-date technology, but the agents never allowed the faster all terrain vehicles and latest radio communication to replace their contact with the community, says Yamnitz.
Conservation agents contact more than 245,000 people each year who are enjoying Missouri's outdoors. Agents work out of their homes and receive thousands of calls about wildlife damage, road-killed deer and regulations. In spite of all that public contact, less than 30 complaints are lodged each year against agents, and less than 1 percent of them are ever substantiated after a lengthy investigation, Yamnitz says. In addition, conservation agents have a conviction rate of more than 95 percent for all arrests made. This type of success could never be achieved without the support of the community.
"We must manage the resources for the good of the people," Yamnitz says. "Agents can't be too involved with the resource. They must care about people to be a good agent. The hardest thing I ever did was to leave my first assignment. It wasn't the area I miss so much as the people." He and his family still go back to Texas County to visit the good friends that they made there.