New year starts with a spike in suburban crimes on Kansas side of state line

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- The Kansas side of the metro has seen more than it's normal share of violent crimes. Robberies, carjackings, murder and kidnapping lead the list, and it's all happened in the first three weeks of 2015.

"It's just scary to think that something like that could happen," explained Dani Degenhardt.

Degenhardt hasn't lived in Overland Park that long, but knows it has an excellent reputation. She and her roommate were surprised to see police near their apartment earlier this week, and then shocked to learn a woman had been abducted nearby.

"As social workers, we work with this stuff on a regular basis, but I didn't really think it would be where we lived especially," said Degenhardt.

The kidnapped woman escaped after her car caught on fire and the suspect got away. Twenty-four hours later, Overland Park police were working another scene of a violent crime, this time at the Oak Park Mall. A woman was robbed at gunpoint by three women and a man. They were caught on mall surveillance cameras before and after the crime.

"We want to get the message out to people: If you are going to do that stuff in Overland Park, commit the crime, we are going to put your picture on TV," said Officer Gary Mason.

Strong words from the Overland Park Police Department. Ofc. Mason says the city isn't immune from crime.

"In a city of 180,000 people crime is going to happen, bad things are going to happen, but if you look at the overall statistics of the city and through the years we've always had a low crime rate," said Ofc. Mason.

Ofc. Mason says the mall is a target and will always be one. Despite several recent crimes, mall management and the department aren't sitting on their hands.

"We refuse to let the mall become a location that people are afraid to go and do shopping and worried about getting mugged or robbed in the parking lot," Ofc. Mason said.

Overland Park isn't the only city dealing with violence early in 2015. Earlier this week an Olathe woman was shot in the chest. She's expected to recover. Nearly two weeks ago, the owner of She's A Pistol in Shawnee was killed during a robbery. Three of the four suspects were shot, but are out of hospital and in jail.

As for Oak Park mall, Ofc. Mason says there will always be issues, but says its how they handle the problem that will make the difference.



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