KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Making South Kansas City safer. That was the focus of a community forum Friday night at United Believers Community Church.

It comes as Kansas City’s seen 51 homicides this year.

“Going to funerals and seeing violent carnage takes its toll on communities, officers, and families. Somebody is going to have to say this is nonsense and we’re going to stop it,” said Dave Jackson, the south patrol commander for the Kansas City Police Department.

From inside the safety of the church, ideas were formulated on how to make the area better and safer. Groups of four or more sat at tables to discuss two questions: 1) How has South Kansas City changed over the years, and how has it impacted you?, and 2) What actions and programs could be implemented to make South Kansas City safer? All of the groups had at least one KCPD officer and local residents.

Each table shared their answers with the room after a 10-minute discussion. Answers to the first question varied from rental properties, a lack of youth activities, the rise in gun violence, and a lack of access to resources.

Natalie Keys, a mother of two, acted as her table’s reporter in sharing their response to the second question.

“More money into small businesses, getting kids involved, and career exploration for the youth,” she said.

She said she had to mentally get it together to attend the forum, knowing police officers would be present, because “in my community we don’t always, you know, you see a police officer and it’s like ‘OK. There they are’.” However, she shared a table with Commander Jackson and said he was very relatable and passionate about figuring out what to do with the youth and address the problems. “He really listened and engaged with us.”

After the team building work, Jackson spoke to the crowd of about 50, detailing the issues he sees in the community, like homelessness, housing, and a spike in youth violence.

One solution he hopes becomes reality is having officers eat lunch with students at Ruskin High School in the Hickman-Mills School District.

“One of the things I wanted to do is get officers acclimated to the school and how it’s laid out and be a presence to thwart off any potential violence that might happen at the school,” he said. [I also want to] create opportunities for the police to have non-confrontational interactions with kids.”

Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves will attend another forum at the church on May 11.