KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Five shootings in the span of a few hours in Kansas City’s historic Jazz District this week are now prompting calls for change.
At least four shootings happened near 18th & Vine Sunday night, and a fifth Monday morning. Two of the victims died.
A shell casing still sits on a sidewalk in the heart of 18th & Vine, along with a memorial to a recent shooting victim. They’re reminders of things the historic district doesn’t want to be known for.
“As a mayor, I know as a police department, as a community, we’re all committed to making sure we make that level of difference,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said.
The first step came Friday with a community meeting, bringing together residents, business owners and police.
One of the chief concerns from many who live and work near 18th & Vine is a belief there’s not enough police presence.
“For a district like this that’s trying to generate and be economically self-sufficient, people won’t come and feel like they can be safe if police aren’t there and if they aren’t sure if crime does occur, there’s no way for it to get solved,” said Clyde McQueen, president of Kansas City’s Full Employment Council, which is located at 18th & Paseo.
The Kansas City Police Department admits patrols could be increased in the area.
The department said in a time when officers face intense scrutiny, they’re glad to be welcomed by the region’s black-owned businesses.
“We’re here to serve the community, and if the community doesn’t feel like they’re being served in the way they want to be served, then tell us about it. That’s OK. I appreciate that. It’s reassuring to me to hear we’re wanted here as well,” said Major Ryan Mills with KCPD’s Central Patrol Division.
Many of the vacant, blighted properties near 18th & Vine are city-owned, and some property owners said a thriving Jazz District requires the city to, at minimum, maintain and secure those buildings.
“We’ll do it when you guys get your knee off our neck. Fix up your own property. Police your own property. Put businesses in there, and we’ll survive,” said Henry Service, attorney and Jazz District property owner.
Businesses would also like better lighting and more security cameras to prevent and catch crime.
“I was really heartened by the conversations and the mayor who, in essence, said I want you, the businesses and residents, to put together a plan and present that back to him, and that’s what we’re committed to do,” said Pat Jordan, president of the Gem Cultural and Educational Center.
One of the next steps could also be creating a Community Improvement District, which could help provide new ways to add security and clean up blighted buildings.
City council members Brandon Ellington and Melissa Robinson are taking the next steps needed to potentially implement that.