New Kansas City Council Members See Community Policing And Airport Jobs As A Way To Combat Gun Violence | KCUR 89.3

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Missouri law severely limits Kansas City’s gun control powers. But three junior city council members say the city can still do a lot to tackle the violent crime crisis.

The strategies include more community policing, more social services for struggling families, and even great pressure for local hires on the new Kansas City International Airport terminal project. Confronting violence will require a comprehensive, community-wide approach, they say.

“It’s not just public safety or public health,” said Andrea Bough, the new 6e District General Councilor. “We need to bring all of these community organizations, faith-based organizations, schools and business leaders together. “

Plugged, a lawyer who lives in southern Kansas City, joined 3rd District Councilor Melissa Robinson and 1st District General Councilor Kevin O’Neill discussed his council’s goals in KCUR’s Up To Date.

They are one month into their four-year term after being sworn in on August 1. Robinson represents the urban core and is chairman of the Black Healthcare Coalition. O’Neill lives in Northland and owns the Job tag log.

All three agreed that the fight against crime is one of their main priorities. As of August 30, Kansas City had recorded 100 homicides and was ranked 5th most dangerous city in the United States according to a report 2018 list compiled by USA Today.

“I think desperation is a huge factor,” said O’Neill, adding that city leaders and others must work to create hope and opportunity.

Robinson said it was especially difficult for residents who “saw so much prosperity around them and not in their communities.”

“Kansas City has developed very well in some pockets of our community, and they are directly adjacent to neighborhoods that have scourge and crime,” she said. “So we have to think about shared prosperity. “

More than one approach

The Missouri legislature has banned Kansas City from passing its own strict gun control laws. Still, city council has just approved measures sponsored by new mayor Quinton Lucas that give police more tools under city law to seize firearms from minors.

“I think there is a lot more we can do,” said Robinson. For example, every police station has a few community police officers, she said, but more are needed in strategic locations to build trust and relationships to fight and prevent crime.

Robinson said she is also trying to develop a “tutor program” among residents, business owners and others who can promote safe routes to urban schools.

“Where crime occurs the most, many of our children are now afraid to walk to school,” she lamented.

In addition, Robinson noted that the Kansas City Health Department is working on a youth and family violence prevention plan that should provide social intervention support and prevent family crises. The health ministry has confirmed that a draft plan will be unveiled in the community in the coming months. It could be submitted to the board for approval at the end of the year.

Bough said the council can also support living wages, more mental health services and affordable housing, to tackle some root causes of the violence.

Building KCI Could Help

For many people and communities, the best way to prevent violence is work. To that end, O’Neill said the city must ensure that the $ 1.5 billion KCI Airport Terminal Improvement Project is a major job generator.

The project is only just beginning and is slated for completion in 2023. The lead development company, Edgemoor, is based in Maryland. Some concerns have surfaced about the low percentage of work done so far by local workers.

“I’ve been worried about this from the very beginning,” O’Neill said, adding that this project has the potential to “be a game-changer” for Kansas City’s economic vitality. He said this should provide plenty of construction-related jobs for local residents, including minorities who have often felt left out of past projects.

“I don’t know if Edgemoor is doing enough,” O’Neill said, “but I can tell you we’re going to be very involved in making sure they do.”

Robinson said this can have a direct impact on the city’s crime problem by opening the door for young people to great construction careers and a brighter future.

“This is an opportunity for us to allow people to enter the middle class,” she said.

Board members Melissa Robinson, Andrea Bough and Kevin O’Neill chatted with Brian Ellison about a recent episode of KCUR’s Up To Date. Listen to their full conversation here.

Fixed: The ranking of Kansas City on the Dangerous Cities list was incorrect. It comes in at # 5 on the list.

Lynn Horsley is a freelance journalist and was a veteran reporter for The Kansas City Star. Follow her on Twitter @LynnHorsley


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