A little over a month ago, an initiative known as SOAP/SODA (Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution and Stay Out of Drug Areas), was brought to my attention as a possible tool to help combat drugs and prostitution in the Historic Northeast area of Kansas City.

This would allow municipal judges to impose geographical boundaries on any repeat drug or prostitution offender (male customers included), making it illegal for them to be seen on certain streets or in certain neighborhoods. Longtime residents have shared stories of how they and their children have seen acts related to these transgressions taking place in front of their homes. One neighborhood association president stated that these blatant crimes have forced good homeowners to leave the area. 

Before committing support, my office researched the issue. We spoke to the sheriff’s office, the prosecutor’s office and county commissioners who implemented one of the very first SOAP/SODA ordinances in the nation – King County, Wash. We spoke to people in Wichita, Topeka, Chicago and Des Moines, and Portsmouth, Ohio. They all agreed: Stay-away orders have been effective in their cities.

Based upon the data my office gathered, I agreed to support the neighborhood groups, the Kansas City prosecutor, and the Kansas City Police Department on this issue. I have stated from the beginning that I do not see this as the complete solution but simply a part of the solution. Enforcement, rehabilitation and prosecution must all be taken into consideration in order to truly address Historic Northeast’s issues.

The cycle of prostitutes and drug addicts bouncing back and forth between jail and the streets is a major factor, which is why helping individuals get the rehabilitative services they need as well as providing judges and police officers with punitive tools is equally important. Bringing together both sides of the issue and reaching common ground has always been our goal. Supporting the residents, and improving their quality of living is a priority of mine.

Unfortunately, a few of my colleagues have been circulating misinformation regarding my stance and intentions among certain groups due to their non-support and inability to speak to me directly about this initiative. This article is to put my stance regarding SODA/SOAP out there in my words, not theirs.

I can be reached at tgarza@jacksongov.org or 816-881-3132.