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Plaza curfew discussion is put off three weeks

Updated: 2013-04-25T05:47:57Z

By MIKE HENDRICKS

The Kansas City Star

The Kansas City Council’s public safety committee is in no hurry to make the 9 p.m. youth curfew for the Country Club Plaza and four other entertainment districts year-round, rather than just during the summer as it is now.

Councilwoman Jan Marcason asked for the curfew expansion on behalf of Plaza owner Highwoods Properties after fights erupted on recent weekends when large groups of youths congregated in and near the shopping district.

But on Wednesday the Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee voted 3-1 to delay further discussion for three weeks. That would be May 15, a little more than a week before the summerlong curfew kicks in May 24.

Marcason said she is more interested in starting a discussion than ramming through a proposal. But she said she won’t let the matter die for the sake of the business district and safety concerns for the kids who are at risk of getting hurt by rowdies.

“There is a problem on the Plaza,” she said.

It’s a longstanding problem without easy answers, said Mayor Sly James, who was on the Plaza one Saturday night in 2011 when shots rang out, wounding three teenagers. A citywide curfew of 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends then applied.

But some members of the public safety committee said they were concerned that even the summer-only early curfew was unfairly focusing on African-American youths.

Citing police statistics that he called “alarming,” Councilman Jermaine Reed said 34 curfew citations were issued last year between June and December and all recipients were black.

“It’s our concern that we will make this into a race issue,” Reed said.

But James said it is a fact that most of the kids roaming the Plaza in large groups are African-American and accused Reed of implying that police are unfairly focusing on black kids without facts to prove it.

“That’s the implication that was left,” he said. “I think that was the implication that was meant.”

Reed denied he was accusing anyone of racism.

James went on to suggest that before there is any change in the curfew, police, city officials and Plaza merchants should hash it out together.

Brad Drees, director of asset management at Highwoods, said his company would welcome that discussion.

To reach Mike Hendricks, call 816-234-4738 or send email to mhendricks@kcstar.com.

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