Posted on February 24, 2022 at 11:49 AM by Jennifer Winfrey
February 16, 2022
I wanted to talk with everyone specifically and exclusively about Public Safety in Mission Hills.
I led off the October newsletter emphasizing that Public Safety is the most important job the Council, Police and Fire Departments, staff and I have in serving you. Some of you have heard me say previously that any crime is too many, and I still believe that.
The bulk of this letter will focus on crime:
• What happened in 2021?
• What actions/activities we have already taken.
• What actions/activities are in process and being assessed.
• What you can do to help.
What we experienced in Mission Hills in 2021 - to be exceedingly blunt - was a bad year. Our Kansas neighbors struggled with some of the same challenges we did. But that is no excuse - we must do better, and we will.
What Happened in 2021?
In the October City Newsletter, I talked about how "the truth has to be good enough."
The chart below summarizes the key categories of crime in Mission Hills over the last four years. The jump in 2021 is startling; and while 2020 is an aberrational comparison year, we were above 2018 and 2019 in most key categories. For the full year 2021 statistics, please see the updated annual report at this link:
I do, however, want to put our challenges in perspective. Even with our lousy 2021, we are still among the safest cities in Kansas and the metro area. Nonetheless, we still have to do better.
We had a frightening incident at the Verona Columns in October. A resident out on their early morning walk was attacked by two assailants. The resident escaped and ran, and shots were fired. I touched on this in the fall newsletter, but wanted to address it again.
Earlier that same morning, those two assailants were reported throwing debris at a bicyclist and breaking the window of a car in our City - they took nothing. The investigation is still active and ongoing.
Prior to this incident, several tactics had been executed to address the spike. Immediately following, additional actions were taken as I will detail below.
What Actions Have Been Taken?
Reducing Criminal Activities (RCAs) are intensive, targeted tactics the department uses to tackle spikes and incidences like October. The police had been working on several RCAs and accelerated them in November and December. Examples of RCAs include increased patrols, undercover actions and zero tolerance during certain hours of the night.
Public Safety Summit
The full Council, Police Chief and his command staff, Fire Chief and his deputy, City Administrator and Assistant City Administrator and Crime & Safety Chair held our second Public Safety Summit in November.
Chief Roberson gave a summary of the RCA activity as well as other work ongoing to address the crime issue. Fire Chief Chick talked about the department's continued readiness. Staff gave overviews of our key emergency plans for natural disasters and weather.
Cameras & LPRs
Two cameras and two license plate readers (LPRs) had been approved for installation at major intersections in the City prior to October. In December, the Council unanimously approved the installation of 15 additional cameras and 12 LPRs based on an analysis done by Captain Ivan Washington. These cameras and LPRs will be installed at all locations that the Captain identified as priority one or two. The units, which have been on backorder, will be installed over the next few weeks.
The Council passed new legislation to address some of the aggressive commercial solicitation we had seen accelerate in 2020 and again in 2021.
First, commercial solicitors must now register with the City in advance of soliciting. Any commercial solicitor who comes to your home should be able to produce a copy of said registration.
Second, the City now maintains a "No Commercial Solicitation" opt-out list. You may add your address to this list. If you are on this list and the police receive a report of commercial solicitation at your home, they can more aggressively address the situation.
To add your home to the "No Solicitation" list, please feel free to call City Hall at 913-362-9620, or go to the City's Solicitation page here:
Coffee with a Cop
Finally, in November, the Police Command Staff and City hosted "Coffee with a Cop" at the Verona Columns to talk with residents about their concerns. Thank you to those who attended!
What is Being Evaluated
Additional Officers/Patrol Cars
The Council was presented with a preliminary proposal and costs to add two additional officers to staff as well as one additional patrol car. These would be focused on the overnight hours when most of our crime occurs.
Additional Cameras & LPRs
Captain Washington's assessment had priority three and four locations for additional cameras and LPRs. As soon as our priority one and two locations are installed, working and optimized, the Council will discuss the need to add more.
Physical Infrastructure Changes
Two decades ago, the City assessed changes to street configurations to limit ingress. We will be re-evaluating those options.
How Can You Help?
Lock Your Car & Keep Valuable Out of Sight
85% of the vehicles stolen are unlocked with the keys in them. Please lock your vehicle - every time. Please take purses, computers and other valuable out of plain sight in your vehicle.
Call, Call, Call
If you don't have 913-642-5151 in your smartphone's speed dial, please add it right now.
This is the Mission Hills/Prairie Village non-emergency police dispatch center line. We are fortunate that our officers can respond to most non-emergency situations, and particularly those that are suspicious but don't rise to the level of a 911 call.
You should NEVER hesitate to call 913-642-5151 if you see something suspicious or unusual. Don't worry, a 911 call will trump a non-emergency call, but you would be amazed at how many suspicious situations turn out to be potential crimes.
Did you add the number to your speed dial? :-) Thank you.
As outlined in the Fall Newsletter, make a habit at 9pm every night of the following:
• Double check any cars you park outside and remove valuables.
• Lock any outside cars.
• Close your garage door (in 2021 the police found 152 open doors, most in the overnight shift!).
• Make sure your exterior lights are on.
• Make sure your doors are locked.
• Turn on your alarm (if you have one).
I want to end with three quick thoughts.
First, we will make this better. There is no silver bullet. Public Safety requires constant, multi-pronged hard work by all of us.
Second, Chief Roberson and his Command Staff, our City Administrator and I had the opportunity to meet with two residents over lunch last week to discuss Crime & Safety. One was the resident assaulted in October. I want to thank them (and all of you who have provided feedback). Resident feedback and engagement are something that makes our City exceptional and help us get better.
Finally, I want to leave you with some quotes from a letter former Mayor Betty Keim sent to all Mission Hills residents on June 23, 2000. Her letter opened as follows:
"Mission Hills has been experiencing an increase in crime, particularly in the corridor along State Line Road."
Her penultimate paragraph reads as follows:
"Let's foster a reputation that Mission Hills is the last place criminals want to come for crime."
Her words are just as true twenty years later. This is our top priority, and every resident can help. Thank you in advance. As always, please don't hesitate to call City Hall with any questions or email me directly at email@example.com.
David W. Dickey