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"The realtors would buy houses on white blocks, sell one to a black person, then go to a white neighbor, say, 'Hey, look who's moving in,' " Brooks says. "Once in a while, you'd get a knock on your door and a white realtor would say, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I've got the wrong house.' And then they'd go to the white family next door."
It's also a significant historical area for Kansas City's black community. Leon Jordan, one of Kansas City's pre-eminent civil rights leaders and its most powerful black politician during the 1960s, used to live at 2745 Garfield. He owned a bar called Jordan's Green Duck, at 2548 Prospect. He was gunned down there by black assailants one night in 1970 (at the Mob's bidding, speculation still insists).
The decades since Jordan's slaying haven't been kind. In the late 1990s, crime was so bad that the Rev. John Modest Miles started placing white crosses at the intersection of 27th and Prospect to memorialize homicide victims. Brooks recently attended a candlelight vigil for Andrea Hooks-Shields, whose burned body was found May 14 about a dozen blocks away. She hung out on 27th Street a lot, Brooks says. "That was her beat."
If the city puts a police station at 27th and Prospect, the thinking goes, maybe someone like Hooks-Shields won't walk the streets nearby. If the city puts a police station at 27th and Prospect, maybe someone like Hooks-Shields won't get killed.
Change comes not with a bang but with a sales tax. On November 2, 2010, Kansas City voters approved the extension of a quarter-cent sales tax first enacted in 2002 that had already funded several of the police department's new police stations and other upgrades.
The department needed a new crime lab; at that time, its current lab was taking nine months to process DNA samples. It also needed a new home for the East Patrol Division, its busiest, housed now in a building that was once the cops' radio station. And it needed a place to put both.
Twenty-five locations were considered, and the four blocks from Brooklyn to Prospect, between 26th and 27th, fit the bill. It was easily accessible to Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 71, and it was filled with empty properties that could be obtained without much fuss.
The bonus: Crime stats might be lowered — ideally bringing down the whole city's numbers — by the mere presence of a new police facility. The problem: Not all of the properties were vacant, so every single owner — including residents who had lived there for decades — would have to move, like it or not.
"When I first heard about it, and when I first realized 27th and Prospect was the location that would rise to the top, it was something that I was not in favor of at all," says Jermaine Reed, Kansas City's freshman 3rd District city councilman, who represents the area. "However, understanding the details and understanding the economic impact it would bring to the community, I said, 'Hey, this is good for the actual community, and this is something that we should push.' "
Once residents at 27th and Prospect got wind of the project, though, Reed (who is black) paid for his support of it. In June, 3rd District constituents opposed to the plan turned in a petition with more than 1,000 signatures to the Kansas City election board, demanding Reed's recall.