COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Some members of the Columbia City Council plan to address emergency dispatch calls to East Business Loop 70.
A shooting occurred on May 7 in Plush Lounge parking lot that left one dead and four injured.
Ward 1 Columbia City Councilman Nick Knoth, whose ward includes the area of the shooting, says that residents have reached out to him to him saying their houses were hit by stray bullets during the Plush Lounge shooting that occurred early Sunday morning.
“I’ve had constituents who have had stray bullets hit their homes reach out to me ans share that experience,” Knoth said. “It’s a very serious subject and we have some tools but I think we are going to need more.
Knoth told ABC 17 that he plans to engage with staff to understand what tools the city has to address the safety calls near the East Business loop 70. The result could be a new city ordinance or an adjustment to existing ordinances.
“What are we missing? What practices do we see in other cities? Kansas City has a good example of a nuisance ordinance,” Knoth said. “I’m not trying and I have no interest in punishing businesses for things that happen regularly in everyday life. But really for focusing in on violent acts, violent crimes that are recurring in specific areas and what we can do to remedy them.”
Some examples of nuisance ordinances -- according to the city's website -- include the regulation of solid waste storage, growth of weeds taller than 12 inches high, onsite sewage and vehicle nuisances.
Kansas City has more than 50 code enforcement officers, assigned to various inspection areas throughout the city, responding to complaints of nuisance code or property maintenance code violations.
This includes both responding to resident complaints via a 311 number and, when appropriate, enforcement sweeps through target areas and neighborhoods.
Knoth added he has had some one on one conversations with members of the City Council and while there is nothing on the agenda for Monday’s meeting, he plans to bring up the issue during general discussion at the end of the meeting.
“I will bring forth this topic and make a request of the staff to produce a report on what tools we currently have available and if they have any recommendations on anything they think we might have.”
Ward 5 Columbia City Councilman Donald Waterman added on Friday that the council has not had any discussions as a whole about it, he thinks something needs to be done.
"There have been a number of police calls and police dispatches to that area. So we need to do something," Waterman said on Friday. "Take a look at it. What can we do? Whether it’s more of a police presence, maybe take a look at one or two businesses where patronage seems to generate these calls, if so can we do something with those."
Nathan Nickolaus, an attorney for Lauber Municipal law, says it is hard for city governments to show a direct connection between specific businesses and crime but there are still plenty of measures that they can take.
“The next thing a city can do is provide some sort of regulation that they think can deter criminal activity. possible regulating hours, requiring lighting, requiring cameras, that sort of thing.”
Richard Sheets, of the Missouri Municipal League, added that another tool the city could use is to revoke a business's liquor license.
“If there's a particular business like a bar or restaurant that causes particular problems they have some ability to pull liquor licenses," Sheets said.
Another option is to use “Police Rule” which allows a city to close down a business if it is deemed a threat to the public’s health and safety. “Police Rule” was one of the things that local governments used during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Sheets added that using the rule is rare because it is very hard to prove a place of business is a threat to public health and safety and could result in legal pushback from the business.
Within the past year, there have been 27 disturbance calls along the 900 block of East Business Loop: Two shots fired calls and two shots heard calls including a woman getting shot in the plush lounge parking lot last June. Police have also been dispatched for 11 assault calls, four suspicious incidents, two suspicious persons and two burglaries.
Since the shooting, Plush Lounge announced it's "closing indefinitely."