Crime commission’s neighborhood recommendations

The neighborhood committee of the Mayor’s Violent Crime Commission recently made recommendations. Sister Rose McLarney and Gene Morgan say the city needs to replicate programs that are working in specific neighborhoods.

When you see a guy with a two-by-four going at another who has a pistol, one impulse would be to duck.

But in a recent case the witness called police, who got the two antagonists into mediation. It worked.

More mediation was among lesser recommendations released this week by the mayor’s Commission on Violent Crime.

Among the main commission recommendations was to work toward strong neighborhoods, “block by block, and replicate successful approaches.”

The commission’s neighborhood committee included Sister Rose McLarney, who teaches restorative justice at Avila University, and Gene Morgan, a Hyde Park resident who long served as president of the Kansas City Community Center.

They spoke Thursday about crime, neighborhoods and what can be done.

A recent pilot project called Neighborhood Accountability Boards started on the East Side but could be expanded citywide.

First-time, non-violent offenders from ages 17-to-25 go before a few trained community members and a mediator or two. Offenders and their victims talk there and agree to a punishment.

City prosecutors drop charges if the offenders complete punishment terms.

McLarney, a trained mediator, has been at some of the sessions.

“I’m super impressed with the community members, the way they have been participating.” she said.

In a recent shoplifting case, WalMart security told how they spend $1 million a year just to provide security at one store, she said.

The offenders state their positions, she said, but “frequently it’s not just the crime but the background information.”

If drugs were involved, a sentence could include drug treatment, for instance. Or someone emotionally adrift might be assigned a mentor along with community service.

But outside that program, she said, there is another level of mediation that much needs expansion, she said, that for potentially deadly situations like the 2×4 and the gun. Kansas City police say angry confrontations are the main single cause of homicides.

The city used to fund and provide such mediation, McLarney said, but now those cases get sent to the non-profit Community Mediation Center.

Morgan, who worked 17 years as a superintendent with Missouri corrections, said Hyde Park, police and a county prosecutor have a program that could easily be expanded.

It’s basically just a meeting once a month for neighbors to come and complain about crime activity,” he said.

Police take notes and ask for names, addresses and times. Then police move against suspected drug dealers or meet with problem landlords, he said. “There’s this immediate response to peoples’ complaints.”

There are any number of things that can be done to make neighborhoods stronger and fight crime, Morgan and McLarney said.

That is partly why the mayor’s commission recommended creating a permanent violent crime commission with a city staff person to work toward and study different approaches.

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