Archive for Thursday, August 18, 2011

Plaza parallel

Local officials concerned about intimidating crowds in downtown Lawrence might keep an eye on developments on the Country Club Plaza.

August 18, 2011


The problems with large groups of teens and pre-teens roaming the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., may strike a familiar chord with some Lawrence residents and officials.

Fortunately, the issue of intimidating crowds in downtown Lawrence hasn’t become as acute or dangerous as what apparently is occurring on the Plaza. Nonetheless, local officials may be able to learn something by watching how Kansas City officials approach this problem.

If the Kansas City mayor wasn’t concerned enough about this issue before, his trip to the Plaza Saturday night certainly should have raised his awareness. His body guards shoved Mayor Sly James into a Plaza flower bed shortly before 11 p.m. last Saturday when shooting broke out about 50 feet from where the mayor was walking. He was not injured but three teenagers weren’t so lucky. A bullet grazed the face of a 13-year-old girl, and two boys, ages 15 and 16, were shot in their legs. None of the injuries was life-threatening, according to police.

Perhaps they weren’t life-threatening for the teenagers, but what about the Plaza? It won’t take many incidents like the one on Saturday night to have a devastating impact on one of the area’s landmark shopping and entertainment areas. No matter how attractive the Plaza is, it won’t take long for it to become a ghost town if people can’t feel safe there.

Plaza businesses are understandably concerned. James was in the area Saturday with a former city council member and a group of ministers to assess the crowd problems. Highwood Properties, the owner of the Plaza, along with individual business owners are asking city officials to consider a 9 p.m. curfew for unaccompanied minors on the Plaza.

That’s one approach but community leaders also are looking at how to engage teens in other activities and how to get parents engaged in providing better supervision for their children. Teens have a right to walk around the Plaza, but large crowds can be intimidating to others and can help set the stage for the kind of violence that occurred Saturday night. Too great a police presence in the area also can have a negative impact on the ambiance that people love on the Plaza.

It may be on a smaller scale, but many of the same issues faced on the Plaza also have been reported in downtown Lawrence. What is the best way to protect the safety and ambiance of downtown? It will be interesting to see what solutions are applied in Kansas City and how they work.


cato_the_elder 6 years, 6 months ago

The Plaza controversy in Kansas City will undoubtedly be the topic of Leonard Pitts' next column. Looks like the J-W scooped him.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

If it is, one thing's for certain-- it can't help but be more substantial than your post here.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 6 months ago

Bozo, you mean that a comment about competition among reporters isn't substantial? Have you no interest in the comings and goings within the Fourth Estate?

cato_the_elder 6 years, 6 months ago

If you're looking for a tedious drudge, check out any of Leonard Pitts' columns. Actually, I believe that you can find one in today's J-W.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

"Too great a police presence in the area also can have a negative impact on the ambiance that people love on the Plaza."

To great of a police presence in Beverly Hills, California, which has the highest per capita presence of police officers in the United States, does not seem to bother the residents that live there.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 6 months ago

I don't know, Eddie Murphy, a visiting Detroit cop himself, had a significant run in with those darn Beverly Hills cops.

independent_rebel 6 years, 6 months ago

Many of the troublemakers on the Plaza live within walking distance of the Plaza. That would be my guess why.

Bob Forer 6 years, 6 months ago

Comparing the Plaza to downtown Lawrence is absurd. Lawrence does not have a huge inner-city, crime-ridden, underclass, poverty-infested ghetto located a mile away. The Plaza does.

jaywalker 6 years, 6 months ago

Pigeonholing? Okey doke. Take a lot of strolls down Troost at night, do ya?

Bob Forer 6 years, 6 months ago

No, you should be ashamed of yourself. You don't know me, and you have no business judging me. Three generations of my family have been involved in the civil rights movement. My father was almost lynched in Georgia during his efforts to register Black voters shortly after WWII.

Call it what you want. But its a simple fact of life that many folks in this world are born into abject poverty. And if you have even a hint of sophistication about the modern world, you will realize that those folks tend to commit more crime than lily white middleclassers such as yourself.

The difference is, my family and I tried to do something about, it, while cowards and charlatans such as yourself sat on the sideline and got their jollies judging folks they don't know.

Bob Forer 6 years, 6 months ago

I am not judging anybody. I simply stated a fact. Grow up and learn to deal with the real world. And by the way, if I were you I would quit trying to pigeon hole folks. Me, a teabagger? Hah, you're way off honey.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 6 months ago

Misguided, no victims of society's indifference and oh, never mind. I was just role playing for some bleeding heart L-word.

somedude20 6 years, 6 months ago

" I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

WilburM 6 years, 6 months ago

Maybe it's just my age, but it's getting awfully difficult to differentiate between comment, sarcasm, and complete nuttiness in this strand. Guess I should just rely on the Onion for my news.

somemisfits 6 years, 6 months ago

Lawrence PD should talk to Tempe, AZ PD. Their police presence in downtown Tempe is fantastic.

KU_cynic 6 years, 6 months ago

A serious point:

What is there is Lawrence for teenagers to do, especially on weekend evenings?

We've got one bowling alley, no putt-putt golf or "family fun" complexes, an isolated multiplex on the edge of town that shows only mainstream fluff movies, and a downtown area that caters mostly to drunk college students and barflies.

I applaud the churches that have youth groups and youth events, but since friendships and social circles cross faith lines these efforts are isolated and not inclusive.

I have two recommendations:

1) Ecumenical multi-faith youth activities coordinated to involve teens of all faiths;

2) A real effort by KU to reach out and systematically invite local teens to cultural and athletic events on campus (e.g., free entry to women's basketball games -- there are usually about 10,000 empty seats).

Sprinkles 6 years, 6 months ago

Great suggestions for real, positive change!

Katara 6 years, 6 months ago

KU has a partnership with the area schools where the kids do get into to the women's basketball games for free. My kids attend them. They really enjoy it.

But you are correct, there are not many activities for kids and teens to do here. Parks and Rec offer many activities to do but they are only for a short period and require advance registration.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 6 months ago

Nothing says "bring the revolution" like looting liquor stores and stealing DVD players....

Paul R Getto 6 years, 6 months ago

TheSychophant (anonymous) says… Comparing the Plaza to downtown Lawrence is absurd. Lawrence does not have a huge inner-city, crime-ridden, underclass, poverty-infested ghetto located a mile away. The Plaza does. ======= SYCH: Perhaps a good point, but last thing I read, most of the kids who got dumped by the parents on the Plaza for the evening were from considerably farther away than the next neighborhood. I guess it's the equivalent of 'middle class' parents dumping their kids at the mall to raise hell. They have had trouble there too. Did you see the outcome of the recent trial in JOCO, where two skateboarders from reasonably affluent neighborhoods got into a 'gang fight' over something and one of them shot and killed the other? We have much work to do with our families and our youth, in Lawrence, KCK, KCMO and elsewhere.

Bob Forer 6 years, 6 months ago

Crime is not limited to the poverty stricken. However, my understanding is that a lot of the kids hanging at the Plaza are from the inner city. At least, that's the impression I got the last time I visited the Plaza on an evening weekend a while back. And statistically, crime is more prevalent among poorer folks. And please don't misconstrue my last statement as classist or racist. Its a simple fact--sad, but true.

And I agree with you. We have a lot of work to do here. But comparing Lawrence to the situation in the Plaza is a little over board, I think.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 6 months ago

Sych: I also agree comparing Lawrence to the Plaza is a stretch.

equalaccessprivacy 6 years, 6 months ago

Lawrence crowds, likely especially the younger ones, are intimidating. This town is a hotbed of street harassment. Shameful when people do not feel safe to use their feet for transportation or exercise outdoors for fear of being harassed. Someone needs to explain to the masses of the local clueless that few people appreciate being approached or mobbed by busybodies and random fools on the public streets. Obviously these types have little of worth to contribute and do not brighten anyone's day--quite the opposite.

happyrock 6 years, 6 months ago

Dolph is an idiot. Will someone quit being so politically correct and call a spade a spade?

Centerville 6 years, 6 months ago

I wonder why things like this aren't happening at, say, the Galleria in Dallas?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps communities could:

  1. move the focus away from new office buildings and shopping malls back into the older neglected neighborhoods. This country really is not in need of more office buildings,warehouses,shopping malls or strip malls.

  2. accept the value in spending tax dollars on rehabilitating old neighborhoods

  3. accepting the value in spending tax dollars to keep the community employed rather than laying off while the higher paid remain employed hmmmm. Don't lay anyone off.

  4. accepting the value in spending tax dollars keeping communities employed by way of replacing sidewalks,curbing,adding more hike/bath paths in older neighborhoods, rehab old parks with well lit ball diamonds and basketball courts and summer employment for teens.

Let's put time and money back into initial investments aka older neighborhoods and slow the pace that expands our tax bills with more and more and more new stuff..... that is wasting tax dollars and not paying back. Basing the nations economy on new construction starts is absurd and not affordable.

Keeping the community employed surely cannot be anymore expensive than keeping people in jail/prisons and tying up court systems. Unemployed homes can become broken homes with unhappy families.

I say there are a lot of bored children in Lawrence and KCMO. One point that was made about teens hanging in shopping centers...... they close up at 9PM or 10PM and their is a fair amount of security.

Do children have parties at home anymore?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

Complying with curfew, kids enjoy Plaza — with their parents

Read more:

As 9 p.m. came and went, cops chatted among themselves on street corners as couples strolled along quiet sidewalks. Not a single kid under 18 unaccompanied by an adult was in sight — to the delight of a beaming Mayor Sly James.

“You are doing a great job,” one woman told the mayor.

“Good to see you taking control of this,” another man said.

Children with their parents from both sides of the state line, both black and white, pressed forward, asking the mayor to pose for pictures.

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