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KC community members seek solutions for arguments that end in violent crime

Larry Wilkins
Posted at 5:14 PM, Feb 26, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One person died and three were more wounded in a shooting Sunday outside a Kansas City, Missouri, nightclub.

The gunfire followed an argument in a parking lot.

“We have to learn how to talk it out instead of fighting it out,” said Larry Wilkins, a community outreach specialist with the Center for Conflict Resolution in KCMO. “We are in flight or fight freeze. We are in survival mode, so our mind is telling us that we will have to survive, and most of the time, the way to survive is with a gun or our fist."

Wilkins said the lack of being able to deal with conflict leads to the spread of violence in the area.

“Kansas City has an issue with violence and guns and youth, and we are noticing [that] with the acts of violence becoming younger,” he said.

Wilkins works to change the ability of teens and others to deal with trauma, especially those who grow up in the urban core.

“You know that if you have conflict with someone, this is how you deal with it," Wilkins said. "As I grew older, I began to realize that a lot of things that I learned early on from my neighborhood and from my environment were not true. That I don’t have to be violent every time I have a conflict."

KCMO Police Chief Stacey Graves recently said 67 of the 182 homicides in 2023 were caused by a dispute.

That's something Wilkins said can be solved with the right tools and conversations.

“Ask the person that you are having conflict with, 'What about what is important to you?' Just that one question, of asking a person what about this is important to you, can change the whole dynamic of which direction the conversation goes,” Wilkins said. “Call a third party to mediate or sit down with someone the both of you feel like you can trust to talk through that. Understanding that the narrative that we live by can be changed.”