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Kansas City mayor visits Columbia for violence task force

Two mayors attended the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Violence forum Monday, one arriving from more than two hours west of Columbia.

Mayor Sylvester “Sly” James from Kansas City joined Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid at the Health and Human Services Building for the first of the task force’s “listening sessions,” titled “Let’s Talk CoMO.” Mayor James told ABC 17 News a member of the task force contacted him in regards to his work on reducing violent crime in Kansas City, including a focus on youth-oriented programs.

“We’re always focused on youth, because if we’re not, we’re just simply going to recreate the problems every five to ten years going down the street,” James said. “So we’re always focused on youth in both prevention and intervention.”

Carl Kenney, a pastor and adjunct professor at the University of Missouri, said a deeper, cultural discussion needed to happen to figure out ways to impact crime rates. He referred to crime as the juxtaposition between “a culture of privilege and a culture of neglect.”

“It’s the culture of privilege and the assumptions related to that,” Kenney said. “And with those assumptions comes ideas on how to impact change. And then there’s the culture of neglect, where you have people who are running through the streets, just trying their best to find a way to overcome.”

The panel members gave brief remarks at the beginning, and took a few questions from the audience. Instead of a straightforward question-and-answer, though, the task force wanted to engage the audience.

The task force wanted to hear from community members on the four points it identified as potentially reducing crime in Columbia – prevention, intervention, enforcement and re-entry. The crowd split into four groups to discuss those four issues, and come up with suggestions related to them. The task force will take those suggestions and discuss them at its retreat later this month, member Pam Hardin said.

Mayor James said Kansas City residents are having similar discussions with each other and the police department.

“Any time you have people who don’t spend a lot of time together, getting together, everybody is benefiting,” James said. “You learn something that takes away a stereotype. ‘All cops aren’t bad, all black people aren’t criminals, all old people aren’t infirm, all young people aren’t stupid.’ You know, you learn things when you come into contact with people.”

Hardin said she hopes the other two “listening sessions” turn out as many people as Monday’s. Progressive Missionary Baptist Church will host one Thursday from 7-9 p.m., designed for adults. The Armory Sports Center in downtown Columbia will host a forum Friday from 6-8 p.m., geared for young people.

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