Bush Praises Anti-Crime Activists in Kansas City With PM-BushJOSH LEMIEUX , Associated Press
Jan. 24, 1990 5:57 AM ET
KANSAS CITY, MO. KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ President Bush calls this city a model for driving away gangs and drug houses, but anti-crime activists here say the deadly trade won't go away soon.
Bush walked with police and community activists Tuesday in a neighborhood where dealers peddled crack cocaine under a basketball hoop until neighbors took down the basket and chased out much of their business.
''What (Bush) really did was give us a pep talk and congratulate us for what we have done - and acknowledge that there's a long way to go,'' said P. Albert Williams, a member of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime.
The community organization works with law enforcement authorities to close houses used by drug dealers.
The federal government estimates that Kansas City ranks sixth in the nation in availability of crack. Ranking 29th in metropolitan population, the city had the ninth-highest murder rate in the country last year, according to FBI figures.
''To me, it's a genocide,'' Williams said. ''If we keep up the drugs, we're going to kill ourselves.''
Police Maj. Sylvester Winston said 45 percent of the city's record 136 homicides last year were drug-related, compared with only 10 percent in 1986.
Bush spoke to about 1,300 metropolitan area law enforcement officials in a downtown auditorium, saying cooperation between police and the community could win major battles against drugs.
''People in this town refused to surrender to the drug plague. You took back what's yours. Took back your kids. Took back your streets,'' Bush said.
But activists and Bush, himself, said the problem had not been solved in Kansas City. The message was that progress was being made.
''Certainly (Bush's speech) is going to galvanize the crime fighters,'' said Alvin Sykes, leader of a group to help crime victims. ''It's hard to gauge what kind of impact it will have on the drug dealers. They didn't come down here to hear it.''
U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and federal drug czar William Bennett joined Bush in a meeting with the Ad Hoc Group, which formed about a dozen years ago to ease tensions between blacks and police. Today, the group founded by city human relations Director Alvin Brooks marches around suspected drug houses. Clad in blue windbreakers, they shout down dealers with bullhorns. The group set up a hotline for people to report new houses.
''Our emphasis has been to try to raise the level of awareness and consciousness about what drugs and related crimes and violence are doing to our community, and we attack those crack houses,'' Brooks told the president.
Guided by Brooks in an inner-city area, Bush visited a tree with a basketball backboard attached to it. The hoop has been stripped away by neighbors because it attracted drug dealers.
Nearby, members of Black Men Together, an anti-crime group affliated with Ad Hoc, demonstrated their chant to harass dealers: ''Change 3/8 Change 3/8 Change 3/8 You better run, dope pusher, better run 3/8''
At the speech to police, Bush stumped for a bill in Congress to reduce constitutional restrictions on the courtroom use of evidence seized illegally - but in ''good faith'' - by police.
The concept won praise from Terry Storey, a police officer who works with drug-raid teams in suburban Independence.
''It's pretty amazing when we lose cases even when it's pretty obvious that the person's guilty,'' Storey said after the president's speech. ''I've lost cases because of technicalities.''