Talk about timing….
As luck would have it, KC Confidential‘s server went down on the day I decide to cruise the Plaza. As a followup to recent police confirmation here that the urban youth problem had been simmering – mostly off the media radar – for several weekends. I’d been out of town for two weeks during the buildup and was limited to third party eyewitness reports and carefully-worded police statements.
Here’s what I learned at 9 p.m. tonight (Saturday) prior to KC Mayor Sly James rubber stamp visit to the Plaza and the Star‘s 10:18 p.m. report that the evening had gone without incident.
My slow cruise of the Plaza – even at that relatively early hour – revealed that the streets were already swarming with various size groups of mostly black kids and teens. Police were also already stationed around the streets, police cars cruising ominously. And smack in front of the entry to Cinemark‘s movie theaters were four stern-looking Kansas City Police Officers astride four really big horses. They were looking threateningly into the assemblage of urban youth already in significant number on the sidewalks outside the theater.
Here’s the deal.
Some civic leaders say the bad apple kids – gang types – are interspersed with the cleancut ones. Regardless. No way the the Plaza wants or is going to stand for these kinda crowds. The kids stand in marked contrast to what passes for "normal" Plaza clientele. They’re dressed funny by Plaza standards. Nary a Jack Henry or Halls store fashion in the bunch. They loidered and wandered aimlessly, shooting nervous glances at unfriendly Plaza security types – mostly police.
Even when the kids didn’t appear to be causing trouble, they just looked out of place. Like problems waiting to happen.
Sure enough, shortly after I left gunshots rang out near the Cheesecake Factory – the scene of past so-called flash mob violence.
Early reports were two people were shot. Then three.
Here’s what really stood out: that the crowds were as large as they were that early in the evening. Large and small crowds of kids looking noticeably uncomfortable. A growing situation that upscale Plaza patrons coming out of Brio or other establishments would likely be wary of. And that many of them might think twice before returning. At least on a summer Saturday night.
Frankly, packs of young kids hanging out, filling up sidewalks, nothing to do, nowhere to go – except in the opposite direction of the cops – can be unsettling. Less so to me maybe, but I’m not the typical Plaza habitue.
Then after getting caught in the crosshairs – and nearly the crossfire – Mayor James did a 180 in the Star and went from saying "No biggie" at 10 p.m. to talking about implementing a curfew via the powers vested in his office at 1:17 a.m.
So there you have it, except for one thing.
Even a 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. curfew may not cure the situation entirely.
The crowd was already up and at ’em by 9 p.m. and probably earlier. And there’ll likely have to be some sort of grace period for movies that let out at 9 .p. or shortly after. Or kids "waiting for their rides."
The good news, I suppose is, school’s about to start and the temperatures are bound to drop. Let’s see how Sly reacts after biting the concrete to avoid gunfire.