Hoping to curb crime in its neighborhoods, the Independence Police Department is working with Hawthorne Place Apartments to install surveillance cameras.

IPD Major Ed Turner said during a recent City Council presentation, the cameras should be in place by summer.

“We’re looking at strategic locations to implement cameras on the property,” Turner said. “That’s in the works.”

Hawthorne, just off U.S. 24 east of Missouri 291, is home to about 2,000 people.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, in a recent interview, acknowledged that crime at Hawthorne “seems to have heated up” recently.

She likes the idea of cameras.

“You bet it helps,” she said.

It also helps that everyone, including those inclined to commit crimes, know that those cameras are up and running.

“Make sure those are well advertised as well,” Baker said.

Police have identified some areas that, because of bush or tree coverage, are poorly lit at night and have minimal viewing.

“We can work with management and maintenance to trim those back,” Turner said.

Police have found a majority of problems at the complex – the three homicides since late 2016 notwithstanding – have been caused by visitors and not residents, and such visitors receive trespassing citations.

“Those people are banned from the property, at which point they have a tendency to come back,” Turner said.

Working with Municipal Judge Garry Helm and the prosecutor’s office, fines for trespassing now are doubled with each offense, which Turner said has helped stem some problems.

To help stem traffic flow, Turner said, city officials are looking at possibly closing off one of the entry/exit points on the south side of the complex.


Crime hot spots

Hawthorne also appears among 19 crime “areas of interest” listed by the Jackson County Combat program, which is funded by the county’s quarter-cent anti-drug and anti-violence sales tax. Those listings take into account four categories of violent crime: robbery, aggravated assault, rape and murder.

About half of those are in Eastern Jackson County, including Sugar Creek, Grain Valley, Raytown, the 23rd and Sterling area of Independence, the Truman and Forest area of Independence, the Interstate 70 and Missouri 7 area of Blue Springs, the I-70 and Wood Chapel Road area of Blue Springs and the U.S. 40 and M-7 area of Blue Springs. There are eight in Kansas City and one in Grandview.

Baker and Vince Ortega, Combat’s deputy director, said those data have been used to identify troubled areas, such as one in the Ruskin area, followed by officials engaging with neighbors to turn things around. Those hotspots also are a factor in awarding Combat money to various anti-crime groups.

Ruskin neighbors quickly keyed in on the problem. It was mostly gangs and a relatively small number of bad actors. Focused on that, officials were able to cut juvenile crime in the area by 31 percent in 18 months.

“It’s just one of those models that works,” Baker said.

She added, “I think what’s valuable for us is for neighbors to come to us and tell us what the solutions need to be.”

Baker said another is driving up violent crime statistics across Missouri, a loosening of gun laws, specifically much bigger magazines and letting guns into the hands of younger people.

“The guns that we’re seeing now – those have so much more firepower,” she said.