Kansas City council members got more information about violent crimes as they consider a proposal to privatize the sidewalks in Kansas City's historical Westport entertainment district.
"I feel it is very important to broaden this discussion, not about whether we privatize the sidewalk, or whether we support businesses," says Councilwoman Alissia Canady. "This is a public safety issue."
A coalition of Westport business owners are backing the proposal due to an apparent increase in gun violence and crime in the entertainment district. To that end, the ordinance would enable officers to screen for guns on busy weekend nights.
Kansas City police Capt. Doug Niemeier says people have been wondering if the area is indeed dangerous. At the joint session of the Neighborhoods and Planning and Zoning committees, Neimeier provided data on violent crime in Westport.
Over the past three years, police found violent crime in Westport is highest between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m., and the majority of crimes occur between Friday nights and before dawn Sunday mornings. Violent crime incidents are concentrated disproportionately around the intersection of Westport Road and Mill Street by the nightclub Throwback KC.
Over the past three years, there have been a total of 92 offenses — 83 aggravated assaults, seven domestic violence aggravated assaults and two homicides.
"While the recent spike in gun activity in Westport is troubling, it does not rise to the level to justify privatization of public space," says Rev. Rodney Williams, president of the local NAACP.
"Such measures would place this city on a slippery slope that might lead to racial profiling and violations of our civil rights."
In closing, Canady urged Kansas Citians to focus on safety.
"For anybody who wants to race bait with this issue, make it a black white issue, shame on them," Canady said.
The committee members took no action on the proposed ordinance.
Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.