COMBAT community cleanup draws volunteers who want to revitalize their neighborhood

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- On Election Day, Jackson County voters will be asked to renew a quarter-cent sales tax for COMBAT, a drug prevention and public safety program.

Volunteers organized by COMBAT spent Thursday cleaning up the Vineyard neighborhood.

Many people know COMBAT for the special drug court it funds in Jackson County, but outreach efforts have become more important in recent years for distressed neighborhoods.

COMBAT has expanded its mission to include violence prevention. To that end, the agency is giving free gun locks to people across Jackson County.

Dumpsters have been brought in for neighbors to get rid of bulky trash like appliances, furniture and mattresses. And drugs haven't been left out. There's a drug terminator on site that safely burns unused prescription drugs neighbors drop off.

"Since we added violence to our mission, the neighborhood cleanups are a way to help curb violence in the neighborhood," said Stacey Daniels-Young, COMBAT director. "If you have abandoned houses in the neighborhood where people have started selling drugs out of, that lets them know, hey people are watching this neighborhood. The police are out here partnering with us. We’re taking back our neighborhoods."

Neighbors such as Ed Jones say they're trying to revitalize the area by creating amenities such as community gardens. Jones says COMBAT needs to continue to use the sales tax it collects to help neighborhoods improve.

"We already see the effects of not helping the community," Jones said. "Not stepping up and pitching in and everybody working together as one unit. Look at the crime rate. Look at things happening around us. This is going to help tremendously."

This is the last in a series of cleanups sponsored by COMBAT every summer. The agency claims citizens increasingly are asking for help to prevent violence and they're answering that call.