Monday, April 6, 2015

On the Plaza, we'll engage at the level necessary to prevent crime

You might have heard about an incident on the Plaza this weekend in which young people were destructive to property. The situation on the Plaza is not unique to the current teenage generation, nor are the issues unique to Kansas City. In 1983, I recall the street dance era when many African-American youth visited the Plaza on the weekend to participate in the break dance craze or to watch the talented dancers. African-American youth were not welcome on the Plaza then, and the police were not shy about expressing that we were not welcome. When I was 21 years old, a police officer approached a friend and me to tell us that we were not welcome on the Plaza, and he asked us to leave. We questioned him about his desire for us to leave and he responded by grabbing me by the shirt, which resulted in my button being pulled off. I remembered his name.
Upon joining the police department, I met the officer. He was very stern in his communication to others and was respected by his peers. That’s changing. The KCPD is making great strides with building and nurturing relationships in other segments of the community and will continue to do so.

Today's method of policing on the Plaza is based on respect, with less emphasis on enforcement than in decades past. Officers, both on duty and those working off-duty security for the Plaza, have shown a great deal of respect and patience for the youth who visit the Plaza. As I have communicated previously, everyone is welcome to enjoy all parts of our city. All I and others ask is that everyone – old and young alike – adhere to the laws and be respectful of themselves and others. We will not tolerate behavior that jeopardizes safety or behavior that involves any type of destruction of property. Patience and understanding will be shown to everyone, and a zero-tolerance strategy will not be deployed. There is no reason to punish the law-abiding majority for the negative actions of the minority. Those who enjoy the Plaza will dictate our response – we will engage at the level necessary to prevent crime and to keep everyone safe.

For the parents, guardians and others who are concerned, please help us keep our kids safe by setting a positive example, speaking encouraging words and by explaining why it is important to be good citizens. Also, please share curfew times and guidelines with those who are impacted by them.

Mayor Sly James and I regularly discuss Plaza-related issues and often times discuss how we might better provide opportunities for our youth. During the school year, we encourage young people to focus on their school work, be part of school-related activities, join a mentoring program or even get an after-school job. In the summer, the Mayor's Nights and Club KC are several venues where our youth can have fun in safe environments. The time is approaching for the commencement of the Mayor's Night athletic programs and Club KC. The programs begin on May 23, continuing through August 15. Last year, juvenile crime decreased by 18 percent while Club KC was in session. Let's try and show a greater decrease this year.

As a reminder, individuals age 17 and younger are subject to an 11 p.m. curfew on weeknights and a midnight curfew on weekends up until the Friday before Memorial Day. From the Friday of Memorial Day weekend until the last Sunday in September, the curfew is set at 10 p.m. for minors 15 and younger. For minors ages 16 and 17, the curfew is set at 11 p.m. in most parts of the City.

The City’s five entertainment districts -- the Plaza, Westport, Downtown/Central Business District, 18th and Vine, and Zona Rosa -- have a special curfew during those summer months that requires anyone under 18 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian after 9 p.m. during those summer months.

Thank you, Kansas City, for being such a great city, and let us continue to keep our city safe, vibrant and inviting!

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