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Examiner
  • Residents in high-crime areas encouraged to help investigators

  • A crowd of volunteers jammed into a meeting room at the Hawthorne Place Community Center early Friday afternoon.



    They were there for instructions and inspiration.

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  • A crowd of volunteers jammed into a meeting room at the Hawthorne Place Community Center early Friday afternoon.
    They were there for instructions and inspiration.
    “We really need your help,” Independence Police Chief Tom Dailey said. “That’s how we make a liveable community. It’s you.”
    Dailey and other officials were on hand to roll out a “Don’t Look the Other Way” campaign to curb violence. Afterward, volunteers spread out at Hawthorne Place to put up door hangers to encourage people to “Step Up and Speak Up.” Similar events were held Friday near downtown Kansas City and in the Ruskin Heights area.
    Officials stressed that violence is a countywide, communitywide problem. Residents are encouraged to call the COMBAT hot line – 816-881-3662 – with any information on drug activity, violent crime, gangs, domestic violence or similar issues.
    COMBAT – Community Based Anti-Drug Tax – is a long-standing quarter-cent sales tax in the county, paying for a variety of efforts to fight drugs and the crime and other heartache they lead to.
    County Executive Mike Sanders, a former county prosecutor, said people can also call the TIPS hotline – 816-474-TIPS – or 911, but sometimes people who associate those lines with the police are reluctant to call. COMBAT is relatively well known, and some people are more comfortable calling someone there, he said. Callers can remain anonymous.
    A similar effort in 2006 and 2007, Sanders said, led to a doubling of calls to COMBAT. The current campaign, at about $80,000, is paid for with COMBAT funds.
    Think about it this way, Sanders said: Police actually witness very few crimes. Investigations and prosecutions only happen if victims and witnesses contact authorities and get the ball rolling.
    “You can’t solve crimes unless people step forward,” he said.
    More broadly, Sanders and others said, they are fighting “this culture of ‘don’t snitch.’”
    “Don’t let people call you a snitch. Don’t let them get away with that,” County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker told the volunteers at Hawthorne Place.
    Sheriff Mike Sharp pointed out a crucial distinction: A snitch is someone involved in a crime who gives information to to investigators about his fellow criminals in exchange for a better deal in his own case.
    “A person who witnesses a crime not a snitch if he reports the crime,” Sharp said.
    Sharp said it’s critical that the overall message get through to parents, who then teach it to their children.
    “It’s up to the parents,” he said. “You’ve got to lead by example.”
     
     
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