Business Owners Unite for Safer Streets in Revived Downtown

Lt. Ryan Dowdy worked with downtown business owners to address public safety concerns (photos S Jason Cole)

As the historic downtown area of Excelsior Springs undergoes a remarkable revival, with new businesses opening their doors regularly and tourists flocking in greater numbers, there have been some growing pains. Concerns have emerged about the visibility and interactions with transient homeless individuals, particularly those with mental health challenges, as well as the potential for conflicts near downtown businesses.

A community meeting held on Wednesday, October 5th, 2023, at the Hall of Waters, brought together business owners, residents, and police representatives to discuss these safety issues. City Manager Molly McGovern and City Economic Development Director Melinda Mehaffy facilitated the gathering. Leading the discussion were Excelsior Springs Police Chief Gregory Dull and Lieutenant Ryan Dowdy.

Over the past year, several incidents involving transients have resulted in verbal or physical altercations with downtown business owners, prompting them to seek proactive approaches to safeguard their establishments and patrons.

One of the primary themes of the meeting was fostering a sense of community vigilance. Business owners explored the idea of creating a text or phone tree system to swiftly alert each other if they encounter problematic customers or offenders in the downtown area. Additionally, there was a discussion about the possibility of increasing the number of security cameras and lighting in the downtown district to enhance safety.

Melinda Mehaffy welcomed the group and added comments about how city employees can also help to keep a vigilant eye in the downtown.

Lieutenant Dowdy emphasized the importance of reporting incidents promptly, stating, “Don’t hesitate to call us. A lot of times, people think that you’re being an inconvenience to us. This isn’t a huge big city. We would rather have the information and try to address the issue. If there’s no crime taking place, we’ll leave… But if something needs addressing, we’re going to address it. Please, please call.”

Regarding recurring offenders, Dowdy provided insight into the complexities of the judicial process, saying, “A lot of people think that if you commit a crime, you go to jail and stay there. That’s not the world we currently live in. Court takes a long time. The judicial process takes a long time.” More often than not, those facing misdemeanor crimes are out of jail and back on the streets fairly quickly. 

Both Chief Dull and Lieutenant Dowdy expressed their gratitude towards business owners for their proactive approach in addressing these issues before they escalate. They emphasized that reporting suspicious activities helps the police build a case and often serves as a deterrent for transients engaging in problematic behavior. Additionally, it offers an opportunity for those in need to access support and assistance.

Moving forward, community unity and active involvement will need to remain cornerstones of addressing safety concerns in downtown Excelsior Springs. Residents and business owners are encouraged not to hesitate and to report anything suspicious promptly to the Excelsior Springs Police non-emergency line at (816)630-2000. Together, they are working towards maintaining the thriving and welcoming atmosphere of their beloved downtown.

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