Fight on Plaza prompts city leaders to crack down on bad behavior

KANSAS CITY, Missouri - A fight on the Country Club Plaza Saturday night brought back memories of last summer's big disturbance.

Wednesday top city leaders heard more about the challenges police face in cracking down on bad behavior.

But the debate over just hanging out versus breaking the law came up in a meeting of the city council's public safety committee.

A new council member asked where police draw the line.

"Is there some ordinance that keeps them from being able to hang out and stand in front of the theater when the movie gets out... if there's nothing going on?" asked council member Michael Brooks.

Major Wayne Stewart of the KCMO police department said, "Outside of blocking a sidewalk, I don't think there's any specific ordinance that says people can't congregate. I don't think that's as much the issue as the tension that comes with that."

Police say parents don't always cooperate.

Officers have been asking parents when they'll be back as they drop off kids outside the movies.

Now some parents are avoiding officers.

"There's some resistance to that. As a matter of fact, you've kind of observed people driving past that point, and dropping off around the corner," said Stewart.

Aside from watching the Plaza, this weekend Rockfest will bring thousands of people to Liberty Memorial, creating the potential for problems in several places at once.

"Of course the Power and Light, and the other issues downtown. It's going to be a very busy week for the men and women of central patrol," said Stewart.

Police say kids seem to crowd the Plaza during the transition from school to summer, but then seem to thin out.

City official reports that last year, the city and the Full Employment Council used stimulus funding to provide 3,100 summer youth jobs.

This year the stimulus money is gone and only 350 jobs will be available.

Fewer jobs may compound the problem of keeping kids busy.

But soon the city will unveil its new slate of summer teen programs as city officials try to fill that void.

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