Get to know everyone in your neighborhood, from parents to property owners – and use the registries available to you through public record. Officials from the city of Independence, Independence Police Department and the Jackson County sheriff and prosecutor offices relayed this message to a significant gathering of McCoy Neighborhood residents Wednesday night at the Palmer Center.

Education means everything.

Get to know everyone in your neighborhood, from parents to property owners – and use the registries available to you through public record. Officials from the city of Independence, Independence Police Department and the Jackson County sheriff and prosecutor offices relayed this message to a significant gathering of McCoy Neighborhood residents Wednesday night at the Palmer Center. Mayor Don Reimal, also a McCoy resident, organized the evening’s roundtable discussion following recently alleged crimes involving a registered sex offender in the McCoy Neighborhood.

On Feb. 4, Jackson County prosecutors charged registered sex offender Randy Lande with one count of forcible rape, five counts of forcible sodomy and one count of kidnapping, all of which were felony charges. The assault involving an 8-year-old girl allegedly occurred at a home where Lande lived with friends.

Several neighbors said they reached out to law enforcement officials with concerns about Lande prior to the incident. Police Chief Tom Dailey called Wednesday’s gathering “a perfect example” of community-oriented problem solving, which incorporates the resources of a police department, different governmental agencies and, most importantly, Dailey said, the community.

“We need the community to work with us in dealing with a lot of the social issues surrounding crime problems,” said Dailey, who called sex offenses a growing problem nationally as well as in the Kansas City area. “We’re never the smartest people in the room. There are a lot of good ideas that you bring to the table in working with us.”

He encouraged residents to get to know the sergeants and captains who are the watch commanders in specific neighborhoods on a first-name basis. When a problem arises, residents should call their respective watch commanders directly, Dailey said, adding, “That’s how we solve things as a community.”

Marla Blevins, a clinical social worker with The Family Conservancy, encouraged people to establish good relationships with their neighbors, especially before concerns arise. Jackson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ronda Montgomery also said neighbors shouldn’t be afraid of saying “no” to unsupervised children playing outside.  

“If you have a neighborhood child that’s out playing around and really there is no parent watching, take that child home...” Montgomery said. “Don’t be afraid to educate that parent, as well, and use your tools to help them on what might be helpful to keep their child safe.”  

Independence Police Department Officer Gary Starks said residents should learn the number of rental properties on their block, as well as familiarize themselves with the landlords and property owners. Starks leads the city’s Crime Free Multi-Housing Program, which is designed to help tenants, owners and rental property managers keep drugs and other illegal activities off of their property. Starks asked residents to encourage landlords to participate in the program.

Reimal, who also is chairman of the Eastern Jackson County Betterment Council, said the representatives of the Child Abuse Prevention Association spoke recently at a Betterment Council meeting and that all mayors in Eastern Jackson County are being encouraged to sign a petition that says “not in my neighborhood.”

“I’d like to see that spread into other areas of Jackson County, not just Eastern Jack, and throughout the state,” Reimal said.

Others beside elected officials should take that stance, Montgomery said.

“Everyone here needs to make stand for those children that can’t make a stand for themselves,” she said. “We all have to take a stand for everybody, whether it’s a child victim or an adult victim. We all have to be involved, and say, ‘No, we’re not going to take it anymore.’”