Monday, April 11, 2011

Community, parents must work together to avoid another "Plaza mob" incident

As the weather warms, the problem of big groups of juveniles gathering on the Country Club Plaza is coming forth again. This past weekend, there were large numbers of young people dropped off at the Cinemark movie theater, but they didn’t go in. They simply congregated and loitered. Fortunately, there also was a large police presence, and no incidents were reported. However, we want to avoid what happened this time last year.

As you may recall, last year hundreds of juveniles gathered on the Plaza and intimidated patrons, nearly shut down several businesses and erupted in violence.

Following that incident, police enacted a crowd control plan and convened a youth summit with urban-core teens and city leaders. They met at Police Headquarters. This summit sought to identify why young people gathered at the Plaza, why they became unruly and what alternative activities they could engage in. The findings were turned over to the City’s youth advocate, and a City Council member agreed to spearhead the project. But little has been done since last year to provide an alternative for these young people.

The issue is rearing its head again, however, and many are coming to police looking for answers. But this is not a police issue. It is a community issue and a parenting issue. The mission of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, in partnership with the community, is to protect life and property while reducing fear and disorder. It is not to sponsor activities for youth or ensure parents are supervising them properly. At about this time last year, we sent out a plea to parents reminding them of curfew laws and making them aware that we would be enforcing them. We also asked them not to just drop off their children and leave. A police officer and theater manager even were passing out fliers this past weekend to parents dropping off their kids, informing them of when the theater closed and curfew information.

While this is not a police problem, we’d like to be part of the solution. The solution ultimately will involve many facets: concerned parents, youth advocates, ministers, educators and others who care about the future of youth in this city. Feel free to e-mail any ideas you have to or contact your elected officials.