City of Branson addresses ‘budget motel’ crimes

Eric Olson, SBJ EditorSince my personal awareness of human trafficking and abuse in the Ozarks was raised in recent months, leading me to write a column, the conversation has continued in our communities.

Last night, the Branson Board of Aldermen received a letter by City Administrator Bill Malinen indicating city staff and health officials are identifying problem areas and potential solutions. That’s very promising, as acknowledgment is the first step.

This morning, Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott attended 1 Million Cups at The eFactory to support presenter Lucinda Dennis, whose Cindy Lu Books aims to build child-abuse awareness among children and parents.

Arnott said the Sherriff’s Department has four detectives assigned to child abuse cases in Greene County. When he was a county detective in the 1990s, Arnott said he was the only staff member assigned to child abuse.

“As the city and county has grown, we’ve seen it increase,” Arnott told me. “I hope we’re reporting it more.”

He said 15-20 years ago, domestic abuse was a hush-hush topic.

“If a kid talked about it, they were lying,” Arnott said.

Dennis’ entrepreneurial efforts aim straight at giving children a voice in the fight against abuse.

“We’ve got a problem. It’s time we face it,” Dennis told the 1MC crowd, encouraging them to watch the awareness videos on her Facebook page.

Branson officials are facing the issue in their market, beginning with research, according to Malinen. At first glance, they say 20 percent of the hotel properties in the market generate 80 percent of the criminal activity, including sexual assault, drugs and theft.

Here’s the full letter to the board.

Branson administrator letter

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