Police targeting blight to fight crime

Posted at 5:22 PM, Jan 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-19 19:40:17-05

Drive to the Country Club Plaza, and you'll see plenty of luxurious stores and pricey restaurants. But just a half hour drive away, the neighborhoods on Askew Avenue or College Avenue tell a much different story.

Vacant lots with overgrown plants, graffiti, trash piles, and abandoned homes are the norm. It is in neighborhoods like these where crime is happening most, according to police.

PHOTOS | Blight on Askew, College avenues

The Kansas City Police Department will be targeting blighted neighborhoods in an effort to fight crime, as the city deals with a violent start to 2016.

As of Tuesday afternoon, eight homicides had been reported in the city, the most in at least five years. The situation led to Police Chief Darryl Forte to go to Twitter on Monday and call for police and the community to take action on crime.

In a series of tweets, Forte posted:

Blighted neighborhoods, in particular, are being targeted for crime-fighting activities since police say most crime happens there.

“If we can start by cleaning up our neighborhoods, hopefully that will help clean up some of this crime," said KCPD Officer Kari Thompson.

Blight on College Avenue

Charles Oakley has lived near College Avenue since 1960. After living there so long, he has grown accustomed to taking extra measures to keep everything safe.

“If you go in the house, you got to have everything locked,” explained Oakley. “You can't just leave it open because somebody's watching."

Oakley said he recently put a home up for sale on College Avenue.

After prospective buyers were able to tour through the home, Oakley says things were stolen from the property.

“They stripped out all the metal in the house,” said Oakley. “Anything that's loose, they take. Even the gates off the fence. They'll take them."

Alex Ardon, who has been repairing a home on College Avenue recently, said he has felt uneasy while doing his work.

He frequently keeps a close eye on his car when he is in the area and he tries to keep personal items close by during the day.

Ardon said a door that was recently installed at the home is already in need of repair after someone tried to break the lock to get inside.

Blight on Askew Avenue

On Askew Avenue, it’s a similar story. Vacant lots can be spotted on almost every block. Some homes have roofs and siding in need of great repair.

People like Adriana Villa, a mother of a 5-year old girl, get worried when they have to walk through the neighborhood.

“When I wake up and I'm alone with my daughter, I feel a little scared,” she said. “I look outside before I come outside."

As Kansas City works to lower the crime rate, places like Askew Avenue and College Avenue could see more patrols and efforts to improve the overall landscape of the areas.

Police are also hoping more community members come forward with ideas to fight crime in the city.

“We want to be proactive, not reactive,” said Thompson. “We cannot do this alone. It takes our entire community to do this."

Thompson said people should email, call or talk directly with officers to offer ideas.

The call for community engagement was something Ardon already put into action this week.

“The other day I saw someone try to steal an AC unit,” he said. “I called the police. I gave them the details. Now I'm not worried.”


Tom Dempsey can be reached at

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