Thursday, December 2, 2010

Officers work with city to shut down dangerous illegal clubs

On Tuesday, we honored a group of officers, fire inspectors and a city prosecutor for their work to shut down two dangerous and illegal after-hours clubs on 59th Street. As Police Board Vice President Alvin Brooks said, these clubs were a blight on the neighborhoods and haven for some of the city's very worst criminals. Here's what the group did:

A group of KCPD officers and city employees not only shut down two illegal after-hours clubs, they set up guidelines to stop such clubs in the future.

In July 2009, Metro Patrol officers on the over-night shift noticed a lot of traffic at 59th and Troost when no businesses were supposed to be open. They soon discovered it was an illegal club. It disturbed neighbors and brought a lot of crime to the area. Officers were unable to contact the proprietor, and the club’s bouncers locked the doors every time police tried to approach the building.

Metro Patrol officers began meticulously documenting all the problems associated with the club and established a timeline of every encounter they had there and listed every arrest that was made related to the club. Two other officers worked with neighborhood groups and COMBAT to get the club shut down. Detective Robert Gibbs of the Vice Unit took on the case and said police had difficulty prosecuting these types of cases in the past. Officers finally tracked down the owner of the building and told him about the illegal alcohol sales, prostitution and underage girls stripping going on inside his building. The owner agreed to evict the leaser. Officers gave all the information collected to Detective Gibbs, who thought he could build a prosecutable case with it.

The club shut down after the eviction on December 17, 2009, but police knew the operator was making too much money to stop. Sure enough, officers found another illegal club operating at 59th and Prospect on December 31, 2009. Officers saw the car of the previous club’s owner parked in front. From January to May 2010, officers were called to the club nearly every night.

Detective Gibbs began negotiating with state prosecutors, and they said the information officers had collected was just what they needed to establish guidelines for prosecuting clubs like this in the future. Meanwhile, police called out Fire Investigators John Hastings and Tom Kievlan on a few occasions. They once found 200 people inside a building that was meant to hold no more than 49. Officers worked with nearby businesses to rope off their parking lots so there would be no parking for the club. The fire investigators were instrumental in getting a cease-and-desist order on the club, and on May 8, 2010, police served a search warrant on the club and shut it down for good. City Prosecutor Beth Murano helped guide police through the prosecution of one of the club’s key players.

Through Detective Gibbs’ work, state prosecutors now have guidelines to stop illegal businesses like this in the future.

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