Fighting Gun Violence: Oak Park Neighborhood

They used to call it Family Fridays.

It started with Derrick Davis firing up his red charcoal grill on the front lawn of the family home on Benton Boulevard in Kansas City’s Oak Park neighborhood. Inside the house, his mother prepared the side dishes as brothers, cousins and other relatives showed up to eat, drink and chat.They did it every week, even when the weather grew cold and snowy. It was Davis, his mother Cynnita Oliver said, who kept the family together.And in the summer of 2020, the 28 year old had something more to look forward to — a baby.

The child would be Davis’ second daughter.But just hours before she was born, someone shot and killed the expectant father inside the house.Family Fridays came to an abrupt end. After that, the family barely kept in touch, Oliver said.Davis was one of dozens of people killed in recent years in Oak Park, long one of the city neighborhoods most plagued by gun violence. Stretching 16 blocks from Prospect to Jackson avenues and from Linwood Boulevard south to Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard, it has been a hot spot for homicides.

In 1 square mile of the neighborhood, 27 people have been killed in the past three and a half years. The victims were as young as 15, as old as 60. Nearly all — 26 of the 27 — were shot.Now Oak Park is a test case for a new violence prevention strategy imported from an unlikely source — Omaha, Nebraska. Local nonprofit leaders and the Kansas City Police Department have said they are rolling out a pilot program called KC 360. It is the latest in a series of efforts that have come and gone over the years, some announced to fanfare and then fading into obscurity, others failing and another scrapped by KCPD after some success.But Oak Park residents are hesitant that KC 360 will work without community input, and point to other solutions, instead.

Read more of this story from The Star’s Katie Moore and Ella McCarthy.Oak Park has recorded six homicides so far this year. Here’s where they happened.Have you been a victim of gun violence? These KC groups are providing support.

Check out today’s eEditionAnd support local journalists with a subscription
A new gun violence plan starts in KC’s Oak Park neighborhood. What’s different this time?A Kansas City neighborhood hit by some of the city’s worst gun violence will be a test case for a new strategy imported from Omaha. Some local leaders are doubtful, and have their own ideas.
Have you been a victim of gun violence? These KC area groups provide help and resources“We are able to cover pretty much any aspect of life and have processes that we can help people solve conflict peacefully,” the head of one KC organization said.

About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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