‘We are not vigilantes’: KC neighbors taking crime-fighting into their own hands

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — People who live in the West Plaza neighborhood are forming a new type of neighborhood watch group to stop increasing crime. 

“We are not going to just let you come steal things. We are going to do something about it,” resident Nathaniel Hensley said.

Hensley said he and his neighbors are sick and tired of the crime in the neighborhood. His house was burglarized, and his car was broken into.

He also said he is not the only one. In fact, Facebook Pages have popped up, focused on the crime taking place in the West Plaza.

“A lot of people are posting, 'My car was broken into,' 'my truck was stolen,' 'my air conditioner was stolen.' There was a guy just assaulted at 1:45 outside of his house,” Hensley said. “There is a lot of fear in this neighborhood.”

Tired of simply reading about the crime Wednesday night, Hensley said he decided to do something about it. He got into his car at midnight and started his own patrol. Hensley hit every street from the Plaza to State Line Road.

When he hit 50th and Westwood Terrace, "I encountered a police officer who had a young man handcuffed in the street, and I was just like, 'Hey how are you doing?' He was like, ‘move along,’ and I was like, ‘actually I am doing a neighborhood watch,' and he as like, ‘OK, we are looking for two suspects, one in a white shirt, one in a grey shirt.'"

Hensley joined in the search for the suspects.

Other West Plaza residents have started doing the same thing. One person posted a video that shows two teenagers running off in between two houses after the person started recording. It is that type of active participation that Hensley is asking for, and, that he said, neighbors are responding to in a positive way.

“Maybe people are going to get the word that this neighborhood is a little bit tougher for theft, and eventually, it is going to become old news,” Hensley said.

Realizing this could be a dangerous proposition, Hensley said he and the others plan on getting guidance from KCPD about how to safely patrol the neighborhood.

“We are not vigilantes. We are just a neighborhood. A group of people who are tired of the crime element that has come into our neighborhood, and it is just getting worse day-by-day, night-by-night,” Hensley said.

“We believe that at the heart of a safe neighborhood is an engaged group of residents that look out for each other and call police,” said Sgt. Jake Becchina, spokesperson for KCPD. “They should do so in a safe manner and always call police if danger exists. We also encourage residents to collaborate with their CIOs to get trained on best practices for neighborhood watch. They are the pros!”

All neighborhoods in Kansas City have Community Interaction Officers. To find out who the CIO in your area is, call KCPD. 

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