DeQuai Wilson of Independence had good reason to don a red Jackson County COMBAT T-shirt and take part in its anti-crime canvassing effort in the Ruskin area of south Kansas City on Thursday.
"I lived in this area, and my son, Cortez Wilson, who was a 17-year-old senior at Ruskin High School, was murdered on January 2, 2010," she said. The crime remains unsolved.
"So this cuts close to home for me," said Wilson.
Since her son's murder, Wilson has gotten involved with the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime’s Mothers and Families for Healing and Justice group. Ad Hoc is one of many anti-crime organizations that receive funding from COMBAT, Jackson County’s Community-Backed Anti-Drug Tax.
Wilson joined about three dozen of her neighbors, Jackson County staff and Kansas City, Missouri, Police officers to fan out from The Bay Water Park on Longview Road to distribute literature and signs, asking neighbors to “Stand Up and Speak Up” when they see or suspect criminal activity.
The Bay Water Park was where the body of 14-year-old murder victim Alexis Kane was found January 11. Alexis was a student at the nearby Smith-Hale Middle School. Three young men, ages 17 and 18, have been charged with her murder. Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders said Kane's murder was "a call to action for the entire community."
"Violence affects all of us," Sanders said. "We're here to make sure there are no more Alexis Kanes -- that no more families are gripped by that suffering and that tragedy that occurred in her life. … With so many of the crimes that occur in our community, there is only one way they are going to be solved, and that's if someone takes that accountability and calls law enforcement so that dangerous offenders can be taken off the street."
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker (right) thanked the volunteers.
"We need to hit those streets," she said. "These are our neighborhoods. They belong to us, not to the bullies. We're not going to cede any neighborhood to criminals. We have to let the folks around here know that we've got their backs. So we’ll march together. Some of us will march into courtrooms to show that the bully doesn't win."
Ronald Lindsay, senior pastor of the nearby Concord Fortress of Hope Church, also spoke to the crowd, saying, "The only way they (criminals) win is if we don't say anything."
Earlier, Lindsay said he was proud to have his church partner with COMBAT's anti-drug and anti-violence efforts.
"To partner with them and to see them partner with other groups and churches and create strategies to fight crime and make this a better place to live is exciting," he said. "It ought to be the strategy that is implemented all over the city."
Lindsay said COMBAT fights the so-called "no snitching" ethos that has become infamous in recent years in urban America.
"It's not snitching," Lindsay said. "It's affirming the community and people not tolerating those kinds of activities."
Volunteers distributed door hangers with COMBAT’s Anti-Crime Hotline number, (816) 881-3662, on it. Citizens may call that number anonymously 24/7 to report actual or suspected crimes.