After four homicides KC installs parks/trails curfew

Four men have been killed on or near the Indian Creek Trail system in Kansas City, Missouri over the last year. The Kansas City Police Department is investigating each case and looking for similarities in the deaths. Neighbors close to the trail system are fearful that the perpetrator of these crimes could come into the neighborhoods.

The South Kansas City Alliance (SKCA) a coalition of neighborhood organizations held a public meeting last week at the south patrol police station to address resident’s questions and concerns.

Major Louie Perez of the Kansas City police department attended the meeting and gave residents tips on personal safety while they are in the parks.

“First of all we want to emphasize personal safety to them when they are on the trails. Be aware of their surroundings, have a companion with them on the trail, be cognizant of their location on the trail and notify us if they see suspicious activity,” he said.

Perez used his own experience to drive home the fact that everyone should be aware of their surroundings.

“I use a trail along with my dog. I have earphones in and sometimes runners would come up behind me and surprise me because I wasn’t being aware of my surroundings. It is easy to slip into that and not stay focus,” he said.

The four homicides are currently under investigation and Major Perez can’t say the homicides are related but they have seen similarities in the case—‘they have occurred within the general area of the trail and the victims are similar in race and age.’

The four victims John Palmer, Timothy Rice, David Lenox and Mike Darby were found at four different locations, Bannister and Lydia near Indian Creek Trail, Minor Park, 103rd and Wornall and 86th and Woodland in Kansas City over the last year.

Safety of the parks trail system is on most residents and government official’s minds right now. Residents living close to the trail system supported the idea of installing a curfew on the parks.

“It is not an asset to the neighborhoods to have guys hanging out in the park until the wee hours of the morning because a lot of those parks are by homes,” said former city councilman John Sharp.

He serves on the South Kansas City Alliance organization as Government Affairs Chair and the organization along with businesses, residents and faith organizations have come together to work with the police department to help resolve some of the problems that are happening in the parks in the early morning hours.

“I have felt for a long time, going back to when I was on the council, there should be closing hours for the parks and trails. I have never thought it was very likely something good would happen in a park or on a trail at 3 a.m. I am aware of complaints made over the years by adjacent property owners about guys hanging out in the parks in the wee hours of the morning and most people felt they were up to no good,” said Sharp.

The Kansas City Council voted unanimously to pass a curfew for all 221 city’s parks to close them during the hours of midnight to 5 a.m. daily. Limiting the hours of the parks have been a consideration for years by council members, but with the four homicides, the council at the urging of the public has stepped up their decision.

“A council resolution passed last week that instructs the city manager to work with the parks department and park board and other interested parties to develop a comprehensive safety plan for the parks and trails. The ordinance that was passed on the closures of the park (at night) is to sunset when the council approves the safety plan. Many of us hope and anticipate that the safety plan will have closing hours,” said Sharp.

According to Major Perez, the police department has also been involved in the discussions with the Parks department over the last several months in regards to safety on the trails.

“I will say from my point of view as a police officer, we don’t see a lot of recreational activities occurring in the parks at night. Into the early morning hours, it is the criminal side…drug transactions, use of drugs…I am sure there are citizens that use the park systems at night, but I would imagine not at those hours,” he said.

The South Kansas City Alliance organization wants people in the community to feel safe while using the parks and trails.

“Many people expressed concern to us after these murders, they didn’t feel safe using the trails any time. It was clear that we needed to take action and this is one tool (closing hours) the police department can use to make our parks safe. When the parks didn’t have closing times, the police could only talk to the person hanging around in the park and unless they saw something unlawful, they had to say good evening and leave. Now with the closure times, the officers can tell people who are hanging out with no legitimate reason that they have to leave the park, and with these tools the police department can keep the parks safer,” said Sharp.