Earlier this week, the Star ran an article on crime rates by neighborhood in Kansas City.
According to the article, 83% of the city's 240 neighborhoods have seen a decline in crime, led by two newly popular urban areas in the downtown loop and the Crossroads. Here's a link to the hard data.
Even my own neighborhood showed significant declines (which I have, by the way, noticed just from living here).
The reasons for the decreases are varied. Some areas, such as Brookside, Hyde Park and Ward Parkway have hired off-duty police officers for extra patrol. In some area, neighborhood advocates have stepped up their own patrol.
I think it's no coincidence that several of the neighborhoods that have seen major decreases in crime have done so at a time when the population of those areas has increased pretty dramatically. Nothing seems to breed crime like empty buildings and houses, and low foot-traffic on the streets. Drug dealers, gang members, prostitutes, etc don't much care for people watching them carry on their business. So they hide out. Empty homes and buildings become huge havens for these people. People walking on their dogs on the streets, sitting on their front porches and playing catch on their front lawns become deterrents for crime. No one wants to be watched.
For this reason, I think the city should work harder at "infilling" older neighborhoods with residential by offering incentives for people who buy, fix up, and inhabit older homes in KC's older neighborhoods -- particularly on the East Side. Many neighborhoods on the east side will have 30-50% of their housing stock sitting empty. This leads to a lot of places to hide out for criminals. It has fewer neighbors walking up and down the streets, playing in the yards, and sitting on the front porches. There are a lot of places to hide. Providing incentives for people to move into these existing homes -- many of which are quite large and need a lot of money in repairs -- would be huge for solving crime problems in many of these neighborhoods. Offering tax breaks for people in these neighborhoods (encouraging those who live there now to own, vs rent from slumlords) would be a good start. Offering tax credits to people who invest money in fixing up the home. would also be nice.
We're not talking about multi-million dollar projects here. We're talking about a series of small, several thousand dollar projects that would make a world of difference in these older neighborhoods, instead of continuing to offer tax incentives for people to build in our ever-sprawling suburban areas and the northland.
It just takes a little common sense...and a little willingness to work to let the "little people" have a hand in development...