City and police identify vacant homes used for criminal activity in effort to boost neighborhoods

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's a combination that usually results in crime,

Kansas City Police are helping city housing officials identify "the East Eight" -- the eight most crime-ridden houses in each neighborhood identified by police as hot spots for violent crime. Police say the hope is to eliminate crime by taking away its breeding ground.

Housing inspectors say Kansas City has over 15,000 vacant homes, which can provide squatters and other criminals a place to misbehave.

The old two-story home at 114 N. Topping Avenue is on the "East Eight" radar. Neighbors say the house has been vacant for years, and it shows scars left by intruders: black marks from fires and heaps of trash left in the yard. People living nearby say they're anxious to see the house, which is owned by the Kansas City Land Bank, torn down.

"A couple of weeks ago there was a shooting over there," Sharon Byrd, a neighbor, told FOX 4 News.

Byrd says she's seen all kinds of shady characters coming and going from the house.

"Hopefully they won't let these squatters do whatever they want to, being at a vacant house, where there's no place for them to go," Byrd said.

"The address on Topping has been burned multiple times, and each time, we've had to send the fire department and the police and it puts neighbors in the community at risk," Maj. Joe McHale, KCPD East Patrol Commander, said.

Maj. McHale has worked the streets in Old Northeast Kansas City for 25 years. He's seen firsthand that squatting welcomes in the wrong element, and can result in a neighborhood's eventual demise.

"Up on North Topping, you have a school. You have the Mattie Rhodes Center. You have people who are trying to invest in the neighborhood."

McHale says city housing inspectors aren't determined to demolish the homes. Rather, they're hopeful someone will buy these problem spots and rehab them into useable homes. Demolition on the "East Eight" could begin within the next 90 days, but McHale says plans could take up to a year in some cases.