Could Westport be safer? Some see problem areas, blind spots in security plan

Luke Johnson/

Early Friday, Kansas City police responded to a fatal shooting in the Westport entertainment district.

Alawna Collier, 20, was found suffering multiple gunshot wounds in a parking lot near the 500 block of Westport Road. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The shooting is one of several violent incidents that’s made headlines in Westport, including a mass shooting last summer and several physical fights which have drawn social media attention in the past year.

Now, safety fears have business owners and public officials voicing concern over the district’s safety plan, including Mayor Quinton Lucas, who has called for better lighting, staggered bar closings, and security in parking lots, among other solutions.

“It is also time to close the World Market parking lot to vehicles at night and to instead program the space,” he tweeted on Friday. “Access to firearms stored in vehicles there continues to be an impediment to area safety.”

Private security patrols

A private security company patrols the heart of Westport constantly, providing an extra layer of security to the Kansas City Police Department’s efforts, according to Stacey McBride, a spokeswoman for the Westport Entertainment District.

But the Westport security guards only patrol the area that falls within Westport Community Improvement District, leaving businesses west of Bridger Road and east of Broadway Boulevard with less protection. McBride said the area of Friday morning’s shooting fell just on the edge of the guards’ patrol area.

Westport also requires security screening for weapons between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays between April and October. The area inside the checkpoint becomes a pedestrian-only area for individuals 21 and older during that time.

“We, like all communities, search for preventative measures,” McBride said. “These sorts of crimes warrant a societal response determining what more a district, city, state, or nation can do.”

One manager of a Westport business, who asked not to be named, said many of the incidents in the area take place outside the protected area of the CID. Parking lots outside the more secure spaces, especially, are popular places for people to congregate.

Walks to and from cars, he said, can potentially be unsafe.

“Parking is very limited,” he said. “You’ve got street parking, and if that’s filled up, your only option is to go … way outside that security.”

While the manager said the security staff keep the area fairly secure for patrons, he admitted the force is short-staffed.

Because the area outside the patrol area is more prone to violence, he said, the entire district gets a reputation for that violence. As a result, crowds tend to clear out earlier than they did a few years ago, he said.

“It definitely impacts business,” he said.

‘It’s happening all over Kansas City’

Jon Cates, owner of Broadway Cafe, said his business is relatively safe. The cafe lies inside the CID’s jurisdiction, and with its early closures, the situations that take place in Westport don’t affect his business.

In the cafe’s 30 years, he hasn’t experienced any safety concerns. However, Cates believes the streets just outside the CID tend to be neglected.

He said the security may deter police from patrolling the area as closely as they would for other entertainment spots.

“If police know a place has security, they don’t go there as often,” he said. “A lot of other places in Kansas City don’t have to do that.”

Despite this, Cates isn’t sure crime in Westport is any worse than other areas of the city. He advises customers to stay vigilant of their surroundings and try to park close to their destination.

“It’s an entertainment district,” Cates said. “But it’s happening all over Kansas City.”

Aaron Salvatore, owner of Providence Pizza in Westport, also feels his business is secure, with its constant monitoring and security checkpoints.

He, too, said that most of the issues fall on the outskirts of the district, but he worries that the district’s negative perception is damaging to business.

“For the most part, even with us being open late, things are pretty cordial,” he said. “When stuff’s going down, it seems it’s outside of the vicinity where security is.”

Cates expressed his appreciation for his customers and Westport, saying his staff does everything they can to ensure the safety of patrons.

“From my vantage point, if KCPD isn’t here, it’s security,” he said.