By John Sharp
With KCMO currently on pace to break its all-time annual homicide record of 179 set in 2020, more than 60 persons attended a community meeting July 18 at the South Patrol Police Campus hosted by new South Patrol Commander David Jackson to discuss ways the department and community can work together to reduce crime.
Jackson who has been in charge at South Patrol since March emceed the event which included presentations by all three of his watch commanders in charge of different shifts, as well as by South Patrol’s community interaction officer and social services specialist.
Their presentations focused on problem areas in South Patrol, new initiatives to reduce and solve crimes, community outreach efforts, crime statistics and how the police and citizens can work together to reduce crime.
But one message was repeated with slightly different wording throughout the lengthy meeting:
“We are stretched thin,” Jackson said, referring to the Police Department currently having hundreds less officers than the number needed to provide quick and reliable response times to violent crimes in all areas of the city, to promptly and thoroughly investigate all homicides and other serious crimes and to maintain a visible police presence throughout the city to deter crime.
Jackson said he didn’t feel new legislation recently signed into law by Governor Mike Parson to eliminate out-of-date and non-competitive salary caps in state law for all ranks in the department would be a total cure for the department’s severe staff shortages.
However, it certainly should be a major help with recruiting and help even more with retaining officers who knew their pay could never be increased once they hit their salary caps and that they could make substantially higher salaries with other area police departments while being exposed to fewer dangerous situations and not being forced to go immediately from one 911 call to another due to short staffing
Jackson even cited a major private employer in Kansas City that pays its starting security personnel much more than starting Kansas City police officers receive.
Noting that when crime goes up in a community, all other factors that contribute to a good quality of life go down, Jackson said it’s going to take a community response from all stakeholders – average citizens, businesses, elected officials, neighborhood leaders, nonprofit organizations and school districts – “that we’re not going to take it anymore”.
I was personally reminded again of the impact violent crime has on our community by two instances – one just hours before the meeting and one just hours afterward.
Around 3:30 a.m. July 17 a residence just two houses down from the home of my son, State Representative Mark Sharp, was victimized by a drive-by shooting which reportedly left 11 bullet holes in one of the vehicles at the residence. The assailants fired at the property as they first drove down the street where it’s located and opened fire again after turning around in the cul-de-sac at the end of the street to leave the area.
And about 2:30 a.m. July 19 I was awakened by multiple shots in front of my house. I called 911, looked out my front window and saw nothing and went back to bed. I thought it was just another instance of indiscriminate gunfire.
Then I heard voices, looked out again and saw several of my neighbors talking across the street and the emergency lights of a police vehicle.
It turned out that two carloads containing a total of at least four men (one carload in a stolen car) had apparently tried to steal a car parked in the driveway on the other side of the street two houses down from my house.
The doorbell camera awakened a lady and she saw the cars and men walking toward the car in the driveway. I watched the video of her walking out the front door and asking, “What are you guys doing here,” before her husband quickly got her to come back inside.
She told me one of the men yelled at her to get back inside, and shortly after that one of them fired three rounds in her general direction, one of which hit the car in the driveway on one side and exited from the other side.
As they drove away the video recorded about 16 more shots, and the police recovered shell casings from the second burst of gunfire on the street right in front of my house and an adjacent house.
Thank goodness nobody was killed or injured as they easily could have been!
But as Major Jackson said, we must all pull together to reduce this level of violence. There is no way KCMO should have one of the highest per capita homicide rates of big cities in America, but we do.