You live long enough, and you do what we do for a living here at Ingram’s, you start to realize that othing happens in a vacuum—everything in business, just like in life, is connected. Sometimes, it’s hard to see those connections. Sometimes, they simply present themselves.
The General Assembly we convened in January with business and higher education executives devoted part of the discussion to crime in Kansas City. As it so happened, we already had on our editorial calendar a feature to explore the related issues in this month’s issue.
We also had on that February calendar a feature tied to commercial real-estate trends, and chose the topic of Opportunity Zones created by the 2017 federal tax reforms. The point of that program is to drive private capital into economically distressed areas. It will be interesting to see how much of that flows into Kansas City’s most challenging neighborhoods, whether new business will spring up there, and whether they will be able to tap into an available work force that, we’ve been told for years, turns to crime too often because of the lack of job opportunities.
So it was interesting to see those lines of coverage converge and complement each other for this issue. But even after that coverage plan had been put on paper, events conspired to make it not just professional, but personal. More on that in a moment.
Too often, those who have been victimized by crime get together to commiserate, which may be good therapy, but it doesn’t move the needle on public safety. We at Ingram’s view our role as a conduit to educate, align and act. We don’t have time for therapy, but neither are we interested in dealing with the level of ongoing crime we’re encountering.
That mission is not entirely altruistic on our part: We’ve been getting hit here, as well. In the past two years, three diesel trucks have been stolen from our parking lot and the building is often tagged/vandalized. Within the past month, there was an attempted theft of our cargo trailer and an expensive diesel tractor. Lots of damage to the trailer. Broken car glass is common. As is a variety of petty crime.
This is happening in arguably one of the city’s hottest or trendiest business and residential neighborhoods, the Crossroads district. We’re fed up with crime and won’t tolerate it in our neighborhood any more. The business community can and should be active and when enough folks are as tired of the status quo as we are—and with proactive law enforcement, I believe we’ll move the needle, perhaps in a significant way.
Our goal is to align business and community leaders to bring attention to the issues and to engage efforts to significantly reduce crime in Kansas City.
We’ve encountered really disturbing experiences in years past with KCPD; complacency during the previous chief’s era was particularly distressing. But we’re seeing a new sense of commitment under the reign of Chief Rick Smith, giving us hope that additional collaborative efforts may yield noticeable progress.
The reason the KCMO school district is a perennial failure is primarily due to a lack of leadership and the urban family environment. It cannot change without both aspects’ improving and a collective commitment and will to change. Same goes for crime, law enforcement and community. The difference, I believe, is that there’s enough interest, passion and commitment available regarding violent and petty crime at this time for an effective fight to be waged.
Perhaps one way to do that is with a neighborhood effort, and perhaps a citywide initiative. We’ll be taking Chief Smith up on his offer for the department to meet with neighborhood business owners and concerned residents to discuss our growing concern of crime in the Freighthouse District. Perhaps we could form a network of passionate leaders committed to a larger mission across all areas of the city. If you read what the chief has to say in a detailed Q&A in this issue (see pages 66-68), you’ll see that he and KCPD are more than receptive to greater business engagement.
The time for being angry about crime has passed. Energy applied toward solutions is far more productive. And it’s necessary. So consider this a call for business and neighbors to align even more forcefully and effectively to help combat crime.
For our part, we plan to invite building owners and tenants in our neighborhood to meet and discuss what more can be done to align efforts to drive out the criminal element, rather than any one of us facing it alone. I’ve asked the police to help address the homeless camps under neighboring Main Street and Broadway bridges. And we’re open to suggestions on other strategies from those who are also ready to take a stand, whether you’re from the Crossroads, north of the river, south KC, the east side or from neighboring communities in Kansas.
The Italian word “basta” means “enough.” When it comes to crime in Kansas City, I believe it’s time for the community and constituencies to align, share their energy and commitment, and start a broader movement to significantly reduce crime. Let’s see if we can’t align the resources to make a genuine and significant difference. Our goal is to align business and community leaders with the intent to bring
attention to the issues and to engage efforts to significantly reduce crime. Please let us know if you or your business would like to get involved in this effort.