One recent evening a man was driving his son home in a residential area south of Broadway in Hannibal when he found his way blocked by a number of individuals. These people kicked the vehicle and shouted profanities at its occupants before eventually allowing it to pass.
According to police, the frequency of such incidents, along with physical encounters, have been increasing in that neighborhood.
“Over the past six weeks or so we’ve taken a handful of varying reports ranging from verbal threats, to blocking the roadway, to actual physical assaults,” said Lt. John Zerbonia. “There have been three physical assaults. Only one of those resulted in very minor injuries.”
The reported incidents have not been occurring in a broad area, according to Zerbonia.
“It’s been isolated to a small area. Predominantly it’s been centered around the 1800 to 1900 block of Hope Street and the 1900 block of Market Street,” he said.
Zerbonia says the encounters have involved young males and females, ranging in age from 10 to 18 years old.
“No weapons have been reported in any of them,” noted Zerbonia.
Police have already taken action.
“To try to defuse any situations down there we’ve increased our vehicle and foot patrols in the area,” he said.
HPD is also seeking help from another agency and members of the community.
“We’ve contacted the juvenile authorities, since some of the suspects’ names we’ve come up with are juveniles, to get their assistance and try to defuse it,” said Zerbonia. “We’ve reached out to leaders in the black community to help us try and offset any potential racial issues that may occur because the suspects are black and the victims are white.”
Zerbonia is confident the problem will be resolved.
“We’ve dealt with these kinds of situations before and normally just applying pressure by the Police Department or other agencies like JJC (Juvenile Justice Center) usually gets the results we want,” he said.
One of the worst things that could happen is for the media and public to “make more of it than what it is and distort what’s going on,” added Zerbonia.