Frontenac hires more police staff amid crime spike

Jonathan Riley
Morning Sun

FRONTENAC, Kan. — A recent increase in thefts has led Frontenac residents to speak out, coming to city council meetings this month to voice their concerns. Police and other city officials say they've been doing what they can to resolve the problem, however, and took additional steps Monday to do more. 

Local resident Monica Kellogg spoke during the citizens’ comments period of Monday’s city council meeting, saying her property had been burglarized three times in the last two weeks. 

“The door was kicked in the night before last and they broke into the house this time,” she said. “The two times before they broke into the garage.” 

Earlier this month, local resident Jason Hipfl spoke at a city council meeting to ask Frontenac police to do more to combat thefts, specifically of catalytic converters. Hipfl was back again Monday, asking Police Chief Cody Milligan how many “saturation patrols” the police department had done since the last meeting, when Milligan said he had recently launched the patrols in response to the thefts. 

Milligan would only say Monday that there had been “several” saturation patrols since then, but he provided more concrete figures on other aspects of his department’s efforts to catch the thieves. 

“Since our last meeting we’ve had 10 arrests, multiple misdemeanor and felony warrants, some in possession of stolen property and some in possession of controlled substances,” he said. “I can tell you that was our saturation patrols. In a two-week period, for Frontenac, that is a lot of arrests, so we’re doing that day and night.” 

Mayor David Fornelli commended Milligan on his efforts, saying he’d been in regular communication with other city officials. 

“Cody has updated all of us about every other day about what’s going on,” Fornelli said. “We really are trying. And I know it’s frustrating. It’s not my stuff being stolen, it’s not me having to call the insurance companies every other day, and I get that.” 

Milligan suggested that Kellogg get surveillance cameras to watch her property, which can assist police in their investigations after a theft. 

Councilman Joe Martin urged concerned residents to understand that the city is trying to catch the thieves, but there are limits to what it can do. 

“We can’t have a replay and redo the past,” he said. 

Hipfl said he understands that police sometimes lack reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop and search people who are riding bikes around town late at night while wearing backpacks, even though they might suspect them of being involved in crimes. 

He said he had a “nutty thought” — that the city might want to consider implementing a curfew to get around the issue. 

“I don’t know the law but I’m just saying, maybe if you put a curfew, maybe you could be like ‘Hey, dude, what are you doing? What’s in your backpack? What do you got going on? It’s 2 o’clock in the morning, you’re supposed to be home with your mom,’” Hipfl said. 

Despite his frustration with the recent increase in thefts, Hipfl said he is thankful that the Frontenac Police Department is taking the problem seriously. 

“I appreciate the 10 arrests,” he said. “I think that’s awesome and noble.” 

Kellogg similarly said that while she will continue to be vocal about the problem until it is resolved, she appreciates the police department’s efforts and realizes its capabilities are limited. She also suggested the city council dedicate more resources to law enforcement. 

“If these guys need help, if they need more staff, give it to them, whatever they need,” Kellogg said. “I know they’re short-staffed. Get them the help that they need. Give them the money they need. This is where we need the money to be directed. That’s all I’ve got to say.” 

Asked by Councilwoman LaDonna Pyle whether the police department needed more resources to fight the increasing theft in the city recently, Milligan said that if the current trend continues, it would. 

Following a 20-minute executive session to discuss non-elected personnel matters related to the police department, the council approved motions to hire J.J. Karlinger as a full-time police officer and Autumn Thoennes as a part-time administrative assistant for the police department.  

The council members present voted unanimously in favor of both motions, with the exception of Councilwoman Lynn Grant, who voted against hiring Karlinger. Councilman David Hogard was not at the meeting.