By Paul Thompson
September 25, 2016
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Focused law enforcement efforts in the Northeast last week yielded more than 70 arrests – including six felonies.
The Strategic Uniform Response Group Effort (SURGE) was conducted by the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department’s East Patrol Division over a 72-hour stretch beginning on Monday, September 19. At the direction of Major Joe McHale, all uniformed officers with a badge and a gun came to the Northeast area between calls, focusing on a targeted zone from Thompson to 7th Street and Benton to Elmwood.
The effort stressed quality of life issues in addition to crime. Officers checked on warrants and combated prostitution, but they also detailed some of the area’s more severe codes violations and marked problem areas for tree trimming. After the operation concluded, the department brought in a city trash truck to clean up roughly two tons of garbage throughout the targeted zone.
On Friday, September 23, East Patrol Major Joe McHale reflected on the SURGE operation, which brought dozens of officers into the Northeast over the three-day period.
“It’s a vision to engage the district personnel as a team. The guys and gals that work for East Patrol very rarely have enough time to slow down and look at the environmental issues, the quality of life, and things that are effecting neighborhoods,” said McHale. “Looking at Northeast, it’s a no-brainer on Independence Avenue. It’s a hodgepodge of everything: you’ve got narcotics, prostitution, assault, robbery…I think in the first eight months of the year, there were over 287 police reports drawn in that 2.2 square mile area.”
The covert portion of the operation began on Monday with a prostitution decoy that led to 27 city arrests. A Command Post was then set up at the intersection of Independence Avenue and Gladstone Boulevard late Monday night, serving as the operation’s headquarters until its conclusion just before midnight on Wednesday, September 21. Sixty-seven city arrests were recorded, along with six felony arrests. Three guns were recovered and 68 residence checks were conducted for wanted parties and individuals on probation or parole.
“We’re really, really happy with what we’ve done, because we accomplished so much with District personnel,” said McHale. “It just shows what we can do.”
East Patrol officers contacted business owners and community leaders ahead of the operation, with an eye on transparency and a resolve to communicate directly with residents. Operations Sergeant Andy Uptegrove, who manned the Command Post for the final two days of the SURGE effort, said the community response to the operation was positive.
“They were all very appreciative,” said Uptegrove. “When I was there, I had three different community leaders stop by, and that was just in the 20 hours I was there out of the 48.”
McHale noted that one of the keys of the SURGE operation was to provide an opportunity for all East Patrol officers to make inroads with the community. Sergeant Cory LeMoine did just that on Tuesday, September 20 when he took a shift recording code violations throughout a Historic Northeast neighborhood. Seeing a house that had been a magnet for illegal dumping, LeMoine got out of his vehicle to investigate further. A concerned neighbor approached LeMoine, offering a tip about drug dealers who were operating nearby.
“That’s part of Chief Forte’s vision, and partly why the CIO position was eliminated,” explained McHale. “We had a meeting the other day with a community group, and I had 10 officers in the room. We had 137 years of experience just working Independence Avenue in the room, yet we want to rely on just one person to interact in the community?”
Uptegrove added that while the tip didn’t yield an immediate arrest, LeMoine did issue a follow-up report that will be passed along to other units.
“We may not have seen the immediate response to that within the 48 hours we were there, but that report could in turn lead to a much larger-scale arrest,” Uptegrove said.