At least when it comes to murder. That is until last summer, says Lawrence police spokesman Sgt. Trent McKinley.
“Since July we’ve had five homicides,” McKinley says. “And we had a couple that miraculously did not end up resulting in deaths but were very, very serious. Prior to that we went a couple years without any.”
Leading to the obvious – yet unanswerable question – why?
“I’ve been asked that several times lately,” McKinley says. “But in all of these – with the exception of the one in March that we don’t know yet – these were people who were known to each other.”
In other words, just the luck of the draw.
That said, some locals point the finger of blame westward.
“Almost every time we have violent or serious crimes here in Lawrence, there’s a Topeka connection,” says one prominent Lawrence businessman, who asked not to be named. “Every fucking time – that blows my mind – almost every time something bad happens here, it’s somebody coming over here from Topeka or somebody who’s from Topeka. It’s like we ought to build a moat around Lawrence or something.
“Every time I see a Shawnee County license plate, I figure they’re up to no good. They put cameras up pointing west at 6th and Stoneridge and Wakarusa and Clinton Parkway. And I’m pretty sure that anybody going out of town in that direction, they’re going to catch or at least have evidence.”
However there are cameras pointing in other directions as well for largely the same purpose.
As for the Topeka crime connection, “Well, we have seen that in some incidents,” McKinley says. “So yes, we have a lot of incidents from Topeka and some from Kansas City.”
However the police also use a number of private companies cameras to catch bad guys.
“We use a variety of different electronic means to monitor things like that,” McKinley says. “And not just on the west side of town. We can look at some things, but we have to rely on other private organizations like the Kansas Turnpike Association and the cameras at their toll gates.
“And for example if we have something downtown, there’s a camera on top of city hall and some retailers have security cameras that we can use. because we’re really lacking in that area.”
“We had the money for two cameras downtown and we ended up having public meetings about it,” McKinley says. “And people were worried about privacy. The ACLU came to one public meeting and people wanted to know how long we would keep the information and what we would do with it.”
One reason police wanted the cameras is when there are large gatherings of people downtown the bandwidth gets used up and you’re lucky to get a text message off.
“So we were looking for a hardline connection for those major events,” McKinley says. “And we had a gun incident down there during the time we were talking about it, but some people were (still) concerned with Big Brother, etc. and we ended up tabling it about a year ago.”
Hey, there’s always the moat concept.