Community meets with law enforcement to tackle crime at the Blue Ridge Crossing Shopping Center

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Shootings, panhandling, and loitering. The Blue Ridge Crossing Shopping Center is at the center of it all.

Police tell FOX4 they respond to the intersection of I-70 and 40 Highway at least once a day.

On Saturday, Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forte lead a group of people to think of ways to stop them by asking one question: Where does law enforcement stop and personal responsibility start?

"It's not affecting the I-70 and Sterling location," one man in the audience of the meeting said. "It's a cancer. It's growing."

The Blue Ridge Shopping Center lies on the border of Kansas City and Independence. It is nine miles away from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office off Lakewood Court, but it's close enough to 30 people's homes that they made the trek to speak with Sheriff Forte Saturday.

One person said the people who loiter "are criminals, and they are taking over our neighborhoods, our communities."

"These are people; they're just like us," another person said in response.

The area at Blue Ridge Crossing has been plagued with problems. A double shooting killed two people near the bus stop in July. Panhandling is constant. Many in the room admitted to avoiding the area due to rumored purse snatchings and car break-ins.

Police reminded the room that Wal-Mart, an anchor store of the shopping center, employs two Kansas City Police officers inside its store at all times.

The owners of the McDonald's across the parking lot from Wal-Mart took over the restaurant in 2014.

"I want to make sure that my employees, my customers, myself, my family, it's safe for them as well as everybody else," Anthony Salinas, owner of the McDonalds, said.

Salinas was invited to the meeting to share what he's been trying to do to combat crime that used to plague his business.

He described the meeting as "a little frustrating when it was 'What are you going to do, what are you going to do?'"

"I used to think that way until somebody asked me, 'Well, what have you done to help the situation?' And that's opened my eyes up," Salinas said.

He described having to adhere to consistent, and strict, rules to keep his patrons and employees safe. He and his co-owner have taken down trees and shrubs to open up the area, and since 2014, they have put up 16 cameras.

He told FOX4 that it worked. The crime is not inside his restaurant.

"We call them cockroaches," he said. "An officer drives by, and they scatter."

Charles Green moved to the area from Washington DC almost two years ago.

"We need to organize," he said. "Get to know what's going on in our individual neighborhoods."

Green said wants to start a Neighborhood Watch.

"I think getting people out and meeting their neighbors and walking their neighborhoods is the first step towards developing greater respect and neighbors, different neighborhoods," he said.

Instead of finding solutions on Sept. 14, these 30 people found each other.  And that may be the the answer.

"If you want it to stop, we all have to work together," Salinas said.

Sheriff Forte continued to tell the room "we can help, but we're not going to be the sole solution."

Forte discussed how the Ivanhoe Neighborhood has become a national model for a community reclaiming itself from crime. He pointed out resources available to communities: the Center for Conflict Resolution and the Center for Neighborhoods. He shared stories of people completing community service hours by picking up trash along Troost, and suggested something similar might be appropriate for the Blue Ridge Crossing Bus Stop.

"As long as you know there's someone out there with your same problem," Salinas said. "You're not the only one, it helps you out a lot more. It gives you that little push, that it's not just me that's dealing with these issues, that I have someone I can lean on and reach out to for answers."

To become involved in the Neighborhood Watch Green is organizing, email him at cmgreenjr@gmail.com

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