Westport property owner enraged with KC Mayor’s, City Council’s focus on ‘civil rights monitors’ rather than security after recent shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – After yet another shooting in KC’s Westport Business District last weekend, property owner Bill Nigro is infuriated that the city continues to focus on “civil rights monitors” rather than increased security.

The city’s prioritizing so-called “civil rights monitors” over tangible security started five years ago. At the time, Nigro and other Westport property owners asked the city to allow metal detector checkpoints for pedestrians entering the business district because of continued violence and crime plaguing the weekend nightlife. 

They were allowed to implement the metal detectors for all patrons entering the district on weekends from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., and made the area pedestrian-only during those hours, according to Westport’s website. The safety measures are applied April through October. 

The heightened safety efforts and security personnel are paid for by Westport’s Community Improvement District (CID), funded by district-specific taxes for neighborhood improvements.

But to fully institute the metal detectors, there was a catch: the city required Westport to hire civil rights monitors to watch the security personnel and make sure they don’t racially discriminate. 

This struck Nigro as “ridiculous” and “useless,” because metal detectors quite literally aren’t capable of discrimination or racial profiling. 

“There’s nothing to watch,” Nigro told The Heartlander. “It’s a metal detector. It detects metal. And if you buzz, then we wand you until we find the metal. That’s all it is.

“We haven’t had one race complaint in the 45 years I’ve helped with security in Westport. And now we have to pay their supervisor almost $50,000 a year to report to the city monthly about how we’re doing.”

Nigro believes the funding used for civil rights monitors – which is money the property and business owners raised themselves through Westport’s CID – would be much more beneficial being put toward more security personnel around the district’s perimeter. 

“The opportunists in Kansas City know there are drunk people on the perimeter of Westport that they can prey on,” Nigro said. “We need our staff out on the perimeter – not being forced to hire babysitters to watch us when we are checking people.

“If we got rid of the babysitters and diverted that money into private security people for nights when we check for guns, we could have something like 23 or 24 more security personnel around our perimeter from midnight to 4 a.m.”

And that is a special timeframe, Nigro says, because “all of Westport’s gunfire has been after midnight. It never happens before then.”

Nigro, along with another Westport business owner, began putting efforts toward heightened security in the area in the 1970s. Nigro said he often had to pay off-duty police officers out of his own pocket to patrol the neighborhood until he was able to get other business and property owners on board. 

Thanks to the increased security concerns over the years, the neighborhood now has over 120 security cameras, several efficient metal detector checkpoints and annually spends about $1 million on safety efforts.

But again, Nigro says the issues are almost exclusive to the perimeter of the neighborhood where there is little to no security presence, aside from the checkpoints. 

“I’m not going to stop pushing until I get more security people on the perimeter,” he said. “The money is there, it just needs to be redirected toward something that’s meaningful – not to somebody sitting in a chair sipping their soda.”

Because every patron entering the Westport area during the specified times must walk through metal detectors – and the fact that metal detectors are incapable of racially profiling – Nigro says he doesn’t understand how the monitors have a job because there’s nothing for them to do. 

With that, Nigro requested the monthly reports from Mayor Quinton Lucas that the monitors’ supervisor is supposedly required to give to the city. Unsurprisingly, Lucas refused to provide them.

“This is just another example of politics interfering with public safety,” said Shannon O’Boyle, spokesperson for KC COPS, a grassroots pro-police group. “There is no indication that discrimination is taking place in the Westport Business District, but we know that violent crime is occurring. We should be focused on keeping small businesses and patrons safe, and these metal detector monitors are not the answer.”

“I don’t feel safer because of the civil rights monitors, because they don’t help anything,” Nigro said emphatically. “I don’t want to waste my money on something so ridiculous as just having a person sit there and do nothing.”

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