Westport business owners revitalize proposal to privatize streets in hopes it will help reduce violence

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It might soon be harder to get into Westport on the weekends.

As a way to curb violence there, Kansas City officials are considering a new way to make the entertainment district safer.

Business owners in the popular part of town want the city to give them the sidewalks. The idea is to let business owners pay for their upkeep and in return, they will be able to control who comes into this area and who cannot.

The proposal is in response to all the shootings and violence that have happened in Westport in recent months.

Zach Pearce

Just ten days ago, someone shot and killed 24-year-old Zach Pearce as he walked through Westport with his boyfriend.

Business owners are concerned the rash of violence will keep people away and hurt their profits, so they are asking the city for more control.

On Wednesday, the Planning and Zoning Committee will hear a proposal to privatize some of the sidewalks in Westport.

The area would be from Westport Road north to 40th Street, and from Southwest Trafficway east to Broadway.

The streets would remain open to everyone most of the time, but on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m., businesses could shut down the sidewalks and force everyone to go through a metal detector. If they have a gun, security could force them to leave, and only those over 21 would be allowed in.

The hope is that local control will make the area safer. But there are concerns – some fear minorities will be targeted and face extra discrimination while others are concerned Westport will start charging a cover to pay for the extra security.

The city is addressing these issues - in a memorandum of understanding, Westport could only charge a cover eight days a year – and they could not restrict dress code.

Westport tried to privatize the sidewalks back in 2001, but it didn’t pass. This proposal, though, seems to have enough support from city officials.