Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Community Support Division makes inroads in neighborhood

Last night, our Community Support Division hosted a community forum that was the culmination of a week’s worth of intensive outreach efforts in a neighborhood struggling with crime.

The forum took place at St. Therese Little Flower Catholic Church at 58th and Euclid, and about 75 residents attended. Thanks to Father Ernie Davis for hosting us. I was there, as were commanders and representatives of our Violent Crimes, Narcotics and Vice, Metro Patrol and Community Support divisions as well as the TIPS Hotline and our victim advocate. We talked about what each division does and gave the attendees an idea of what’s going on in their neighborhood with crime statistics.

But the really important work is what happened in advance of this forum. For four nights last week and this week, members of our Community Support Division (CSD) and officers knocked on the doors of 700 homes in the neighborhood around the church, which we’re calling a “Community Impact Zone.” The officers were expecting to get a lot of doors slammed in their faces, but CSD Director Doug Weishar said just the opposite happened. He said he was shocked by how warmly they were received. Many neighbors saw the police group coming and came out on their porches in advance to greet them.

The CSD staff asked each person they talked to if they’d be willing to provide their name, phone number and e-mail address so police could keep in touch with them better. Director Weishar estimated 95 to 98 percent of the people they contacted volunteered this information. We will use this to tell these residents about crime patterns in their neighborhood, ask for their help in solving crimes and ask them if what we’re doing is working. We’d like to use this Community Impact Zone area to test some community policing and crime prevention strategies.

While out in the neighborhoods and at the forum, we communicated the message that KCPD is there to help, but we need the community’s help. We also told them about the mission of the relatively new Community Support Division, which supports victims, witnesses and their families. Jennifer Miller, our victim advocate, talked about her role and how important it is to bridge the gap between the time a crime occurs and when it gets to court.

Of those who attended the forum, more than half said they would be interested in attending a two-hour community crisis intervention program presented by KCPD.

I want to thank the community members for opening up their minds and doors to police. I also want to thank Deputy Chief Randy Hundley and Director Weishar, Sergeant Darrel Rocker and Victim Advocate Jennifer Miller of the Community Support Division for organizing this event and going door to door. I also really appreciate the officers who assisted them.

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