Frustrations ran high at the Citizen Task Force on Violence's first listening session Saturday morning, as several dozen Kansas Citians spoke out on how to curb violence in the city.
William Thomas, a probation officer in Johnson County, summed up what many of the attendees want out of the task force: a concerted effort before its self-imposed November deadline.
"Citizens want a proactive committee," Thomas said as he testified in the KCPD's new East Patrol building. "If we just wait to react to problems, our homicide count is going to be 150 by the end of the year."
The task force, which is led by Councilwoman Jolie Justus, listened to testimony on topics ranging from policing practices and video surveillance, to education and conflict resolution.
Justus says teaching young people how to resolve conflicts before they reach a violent breaking point is one suggestion that certainly has her attention.
"I'm getting excited about this idea of teaching conflict resolution at an earlier age," Justus said. "We've heard about that several times now in both of our open meetings and in a lot of conversations I've had."
Representatives from the Center for Conflict Resolution attended the meeting and told task force members that diverting non-violent offenders to neighborhood "accountability boards" instead of jails could be an option to help clean up some neighborhoods.
Another consistent issue among attendees was police interactions with citizens. Rauchelle McNeal, a woman who has struggled with homelessness the last two years, told the task force that police need to start treating residents with more dignity.
"We think crime is going to go down when people call and complain about it. No, it's not," McNeal said. "We can have these forums until we're blue in the face, but nobody cares about certain neighborhoods [east of Troost]."
The task force will hold an open meeting on Feb. 9 at the Gregg-Klice Community Center where the KCPD and City Attorney's office will present violent crime statistics and talk about gun laws on local, state and federal levels.
Justus says the task force will hold its next listening session sometime in April.