South KC Persepctive
By John Sharp
Providing more programs for youth, more jobs and more recreational facilities and activities were among the suggestions to reduce rising rates of youth violence in the south Kansas City area discussed at a community meeting April 21.
About 100 people attended the meeting at United Believers Community Church sponsored by the Police Department’s Community Engagement and South Patrol Divisions to develop specific strategies to reduce recent significant increases in violent crime in the area committed by youth.
Besides a lack of positive programs and activities in the area for youth, several participants at the meeting noted there is a lack of readily available information about the programs that do exist.
Major David Jackson, the new commander of South Patrol, pointed out at the meeting that reduced police presence in the area can also negatively impact crime control, noting that his Division is seriously understaffed.
Jackson said South Patrol really should have about 12 officers working its overnight shift, but current staffing levels only call for 6 officers to be on duty overnight for the entire division, and sometimes not even that many are available.
He said South Patrol officers when available are now starting to have lunch with Ruskin High School students at the school to build relationships with them in a non-confrontational setting.
Although the meeting attracted community activists, elected officials and faith leaders, no teenagers and few young adults appeared to be present.
Major Kari Thompson, Community Engagement Division commander, said a town hall meeting specifically for youth will be scheduled soon, and she hopes to have another community meeting in south Kansas City by late May at which both youth and adults are well represented.
Thompson envisions these community meetings continuing and becoming community led to maintain a high level of community involvement as specific strategies to reduce youth violence are developed, implemented and then analyzed to rate their effectiveness.