Six months have passed since a string of three violent crimes hit the neighborhood near 79th and Grant in Overland Park over the course of a few weeks. On Wednesday, the Overland Park Police Department led another public meeting to discuss ways the police and community can work together to prevent and reduce crime and improve the quality of the area.
Located south of West 79th Street between Grant Street and Antioch Road, the Grantioch neighborhood abuts the sites of two shootings and a stabbing that took place in a span of nine days in late January and early February.
Capt. Ray Tisinger said he wants a push from neighbors for him and his officers to work toward solutions that prevent and reduce crime. He noted that the conditions of West 79th and Grant streets are similar to other pockets of Johnson County.
“We’ve all got to come together — not just as police officers — we’ve got to come together as a community,” Tisinger told the neighbors. “I was hoping that this room was going to be full of our citizens tonight complaining about what’s going on in their neighborhoods. I want that pressure. I want that stress from you saying do more, do more.”
Crime statistics for the area of Highway 69 to Foster Street and West 75th Street to West 87th Street shared by Sgt. Richard Breshears at the meeting show that reports of crime have been relatively steady when comparing the first half of 2018 to the first half of this year. The exception is auto thefts, where reported incidents have nearly doubled.
Concern for public safety, property values
A few of the residents voiced concerns for their safety as well as their property values.
“I see the neighborhood steadily going downhill,” said Dave Bryan, a resident who lives in the Grantioch neighborhood, citing concerns with dilapidating conditions of the properties. “I can thank every police officer in here for what you do, and for every interested person in here because you’re interested in the safety and the appearance of the neighborhood.
“I can honestly tell you right now, if I was looking for a neighborhood to live in and buy a home in Kansas City, it would not be the Grantioch neighborhood. The only reason people are buying homes in this neighborhood is because they’re still affordable. It’s not because they want to live there.”
Police officers noted that undercover operations have helped to arrest more than half of the suspects related to recent auto thefts. But many of the auto thefts were “crimes of opportunity,” meaning the vehicles were left unlocked with valuables left inside.
As such, the officers urged residents to take “proper precautions” and keep themselves and their valuables safe. Nonetheless, Breshears said he believes the residents of the area are safe, especially because the violent crimes earlier this year were isolated situations in which the victims and perpetrators knew each other, not random attacks.
Nancy Wilson, a resident who lives in Grantioch, asked police about reports of gang-related tagging. Breshears said that, for the most part, reports of tagging have stopped. But he urged the residents to report if they see any of that activity.
The Overland Park police officers also urged the community to reach out to them, not just if someone wants to report suspicious activity but also to improve connections and build trust between the officers and community.
“You can approach most any officer here and have a pleasant conversation,” he said. “I want it to stay that way because that’s how we solve things. We have to have that partnership; we can’t see everything that you see every day.”
Breshears also cautioned the residents about rumors on Nextdoor and social media of alleged crime and suspicious activity; sometimes, the details posted are “so skewed” and describe incidents that never occurred.
Wilson asked the police to “get deeper” on the issues and provide the residents with an assessment of crime in their neighborhood.
“Are we in danger? Are there socioeconomic reasons for people not being able to afford or maybe do the right thing?” Wilson asked the officers.
Breshears said police cannot completely eradicate crime in the area, but officers are using every resource they can to solve crimes.