Enhanced security in Westport on weekends helped keep visitors safe, city says

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was a controversial move to require Westport visitors to pass through metal detectors on weekend nights, but on Friday, officials said it served its purpose.

The enhanced security measures were put in place after several shootings in and near the entertainment district.

The changes included metal detectors, security checkpoints and a long list of prohibited items you can't bring to Westport on Friday and Saturday nights between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. This year, the security changes were in effect Aug. 31 through Oct. 27. Next year, they'll be enforced between April and October.

City council members got an update Friday about whether or not the change helped keep Westport vistors safe. The short answer is yes. Additional security kept people safer.

"Every little bit helps," Riley Simmons said. "Just the presence there alone would hopefully deter bad things. It is not going to help 100 percent, but it's better than nothing."

Simmons and his boyfriend, 24-year-old Zach Pearce, were walking home from dinner in Westport last year when three men robbed them near 40th and Walnut. But the thieves didn't stop there. They shot Pearce, killing him.

Although it happened outside of the enhanced security area, experts believe preventing people with weapons from coming into the heart of Westport will also cut down violence in the surrounding area.

Data presented to the Kansas City Council shows major incidents in the entertainment district and surrounding areas decreased.

"Any time you do something new, it's uncomfortable and you have to work the kinks out. But it sounds like people were safer in Westport this summer than they were before and that we were doing it in a respectful way," Councilwoman Heather Hall said.

Next year, when the enhanced safety measures return, additional metal detectors will be added to the busiest locations to relieve vistors' biggest complaint: wait times.

"Wait until you have a gun in your face, until you lose a loved one. Then you won't think it is stupid," Simmons said.

A year later, the people involved in Pearce's murder are still on the loose. They were described as two young men with dark skin and short hair and a petite woman with short, frizzy hair who was driving the getaway SUV. Anyone with information is asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477.