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'You didn't give up': Mayor praises anti-crime efforts in Ivanhoe

Neighborhood hosted annual National Night Out
Posted at 10:34 PM, Aug 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-07 00:06:13-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Every year on the first Tuesday in August, thousands of communities across the country participate in National Night Out.

It's a community event designed to build relationships between neighbors and police. The Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council's version has its roots in the late 1990s.

"We did something very simple, and that was turn your lights on to take your stand against crime, " Yolanda Young, managing director of community outreach and engagement, said.

Since then the "Ivanhoe Night Out Against Crime" has blossomed, just like the neighborhood that hosts it.

"You didn't give up when people started saying this is just what happens every summer, and you didn't give up when everybody said there's too much work for us to do," Mayor Quinton Lucas told the crowd gathered at Harris Park on Tuesday.

The site for the event is a testament to the neighborhood's hard work.

Harris Park was built by a man who grew up in Ivanhoe and wanted to give back to the children here now. The Harris Midtown Sports & Activity Center at 40th Street and Wayne Avenue features basketball courts, a playground and a golf course.

"This is exactly what I did this for, for us to have a place to go and gather and have a great time and to clean up the community," the park's namesake, Chris Harris, said.

Young acknowledged no one person or solution can put an end to crime, but she believes prevention is key and the neighborhood is cracking the code there.

"Going back to some of those basic, simple ways of community, that village sort of mentality, I think is key and much needed in the urban core," she said.

Lucas sees Ivanhoe as a good example for the rest of the city.

"Look at the engagement right now," he said, "Look at the people who not only do one event, two events. I mean, it is a constant presence every day."

Despite good turnout, one city leader pointed out that the people who really need to participate in the National Night Out weren't there.

"You can't incentivize or educate somebody that is already on the same page that you're on," new KCMO City Councilman Brandon Ellington said. "If you're really committed to reducing crime and you're really committed to giving people opportunities, you need to communicate with those who need help."

It became obvious later in the evening that the anti-crime message hasn't reached everyone.

Halfway through the event, police officers had to leave and respond to a shots-fired call about 1 1/2 miles away.

Still, the residents in Ivanhoe try not to dwell on the seemingly insurmountable challenges.

"I know it's all too easy for us to focus on the negative aspects of what is wrong, but what is right? This is right," Young said of those who gathered at Harris Park.