Crime could close 8 KC parks at night

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas City park that neighbors say is no stranger to crime could soon shut down at night if some city leaders get their way.

Jackson County prosecutors charged a Kansas City man on Wednesday with a double homicide that took place across from the park in late January.

The double homicide is a prime example why some city leaders say the parks should be closed at night, to prevent or curb crime. But other leaders say criminal activity that happens near parks is giving the green spaces themselves a bad reputation.

More than 12,000 acres of park land make up much of Kansas City's green space according to KC Parks & Recreation.

"It's pretty hard in this town to find a place that's not near a park, thank God," said Terry Rynard, the Deputy Director for Kansas City, Mo., Parks & Recreation.

It's these places that kids get to roam, adults get to enjoy and families get to relax. But what happens during the day is vastly different than the activity at night statistics show.

From burglaries to assaults, graffiti -- even murder. Eight parks with the highest number of calls for service have been targeted and discussions are now underway between city council and the park board on whether or not closing parks at night will curb criminal activity.

"It's obviously a very sensitive policy decision and one that's being totally vetted by our board right now. But it isn't a decision to make lightly based on 120 years of tradition that we don't have park hours," Rynard said.

She says it's sensitive because often the crime is happening near the park but not actually in the park.

"It's frustrating that the park even gets associated with the crime. Just for being in proximity, that's our first reaction," she added.

It's something activist Lynda Calon agrees upon.

"I mean street corners attract criminal activity, convenience stores so not any more than any other places. Its just that in parks we tend to let down our guard," said Callon.

Ultimately a decision will be made with public safety in mind.

"The ideal situation is that you have enough legitimate park activity that crime just doesn't want to be there," Rynard said.

Councilman Scott Wagner says the decision at this point is being left up to the parks board but the council could trump that decision with an ordinance setting out closing times for parks.

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