Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beyond the Cuffs initiative aims to clean up Prospect Avenue


Kansas City Police are partnering with area organizations and businesses to address the problems of addiction, prostitution and homelessness on Prospect Avenue.

The inaugural Beyond the Cuffs initiative kicks off today with volunteers from area churches, social service organizations and health care providers as well as East Patrol, Central Patrol and Mounted Patrol officers canvassing Prospect Avenue from 21st to 29th streets, handing out information about a Friday event.

Friday’s community outreach event will feature everything from a free meal to free HIV testing and free detoxification services. Because all services offered will be private, the event’s location will not be disclosed.

“Basically, we’ve tried all the traditional law enforcement methods to fix the problems centered around 27th and Prospect,” said Captain Jeff Emery of the East Patrol Division. “But you’re dealing with people with drug addictions and health problems.”

Tonya Tota, Chair of the Beyond the Cuffs initiative, said that through working with police, she and others realized the need to bring services to people after their arrest, court date and incarceration.

“A lot of times people are wondering, ‘Why aren’t the police getting them off the street?’” Tota said. “They are. They’re doing their job, and now it’s time for us to do ours. We’re bringing our services to those most in need. We’re coming to them at street level.”

Friday’s event targets drug and alcohol addicts, youth, those working in the sex industry, the homeless and homeless veterans, in particular. They will be offered transportation to rehabilitation facilities, where free beds and treatment will be awaiting them. Free testing for numerous sexually transmitted diseases will be available, and doctors and addiction counselors will be on site to assist. Social service agencies also will be there to plug participants into programs that can help them.

“The goal is to make the Prospect neighborhood self-sustaining and increase the quality of life there,” Tota said.