Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Violent Crime Tops Concerns in South KC

By Andrea Wood
Violent crime, burglary and speeding  top the list of problems that residents in the South Patrol division of Kansas City want police to focus on.

These and other results of a Kansas City Police Deaprtment survey were presented at September’s Southern Communities Coalition meeting last week. The department is gearing up for a Public Safety Sales Tax renewal, which will go before voters in November.

“It’s important that we address what our residents perceive as problems, and incorporate that focus into our long-term goals,” said Major Robin Houston.
The survey asked residents to rate 24 different crimes according to their significance and highest priority. 

In the 64134 area code, residents also said burglary and drug sales were major problems, while in the 64114 area code along State Line, residents felt that speeding and domestic violence were issues of concern.

Violent crime ranked number one across the board.

Major Houston addressed some of the ways that South Patrol is working to combat violent crime. The division is working with neighbors and other city divisions, such as Regulated Industries and Neighborhood Preservation, to track problems at locations were there are repeat crimes--such as the Express Mart on Longview Road, Capital Inn, and the Shell Station on Bannister Road. 

“At the police department if we have a significant number of documented crimes with reports taken at either a residence or a business, we can pursue a “nuisance violation” with the city,” Houston explained.  “The city conducts inspections and possibly will issue violations to the location.  As far as the police department, we are increasing our presence in these areas in an attempt to address the problems and prevent future crime.”

The division also hopes to do more tracking of repeat offenders through the court system, to make sure that the crimes are being fully brought to justice.
Armed with the feedback from the survey and planning division goals, other officers from KCPD explained how the renewal of the city’s Public Safety Sales Tax--which would generate approximately $15 million per year for 15 years--would be used to help fight crime.

Sgt Mark Stinson spoke of the development of a “Real-time Crime Center” and updated technology--including crime lab equipment and mobile computers--which is projected to cost $7.5 million.

“Right now, when I’m headed on a call, I have very little information walking in,” said Sgt Stinson. “But with a Real-time Crime Center, officers would be getting information as they are driving to the scene--a very smart person in the crime center would be providing information on how many calls we’ve gotten from that site and what crimes have taken place around that address. It’s a change to intelligence-based crime fighting.”

Most of the projected $261 million from the tax renewal, however, would be spent on equipment and buildings:

• East Patrol & Crime Lab..........$57 mil
• North Patrol Division...............$17 mil
• Police HQ Renovation.............$14 mil
• Police Vehicles......................$42 mil
• Police Helicopters................. $10.8 mil
• Police Facility Maint...............$15 mil
• Citywide Radio System.........$52.2 mil

Sgt Stinson said the department wants to change its philosophy. It currently operates helicopters from the Vietnam era and cars with 200,00 miles, which can be costly to repair. Instead, KCPD wants to have more modern vehicles which may require less maintenance and repairs. 

“With the money we could save on helicopters and other maintenance, we are in negotiations to push to have 40 more officers on the street,” Sgt Stinson said. 

Stinson also showed photographs of the current KCPD buildings, which have multiple roof leaks, are cramped, and have crumbling concrete.

“Our eight homicide detectives share an office the size of most people’s kitchen,” he said. “They barely have the desk space to work, and these are the people trying to solve some of the worst crimes in the city.” 

KCPD has a second issue on the ballot, which it hopes will help save money as well. The second question asks voters to approve the issuance of bonds which would allow construction on the KCPD projects to begin within the next few years, instead of waiting for the tax revenues to accumulate over the course of 15 years.

 If the public approves the use of bonds to pay for building projects to be constructed now, money saved from inflation. 

“Bonding these projects makes sense, compared with doing it as a pay-as-you-go,” Councilman John Sharp added.

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