Top stories of 2016 in Wyandotte County and KCK

A thin line of officers was stationed on North 22nd Street on July 19, 2016, after KCK police Capt. Robert David Melton was shot and killed. (File photo)

Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., saw some extreme highs and lows for the year 2016.

Here are some of the events that were important in Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County during the past year.

Police gathered to investigate the shooting death of KCK police Detective Brad Lancaster on May 8, 2016, near the Hollywood Casino. (File photo)

1. Two KCK police officers were killed in 2016 in the line of duty, responding to crime scenes. Tributes were held to honor Detective Brad Lancaster (May 9) and Capt. Robert David Melton (July 19).

2. Village West bonds were successfully paid off early this year, signaling a victory for officials who dreamed up the idea of The Legends and Village West a decade ago. Meetings in 2015 and 2016 were held on how to spend the windfall sales tax revenues. As a result, property tax rates were reduced slightly this year, and several other projects moved forward.

A boy died in an accident on Aug. 7, 2016, on the Verruckt water slide at the Schlitterbahn. (File photo)

3. The year saw a tragedy for the Schlitterbahn, a water park in Kansas City, Kan., and its ride, Verruckt, the world’s tallest water slide. On Aug. 7, during a Sunday event for the families of government officials, a boy who was the son of a state legislator from Olathe died in an accident on the ride. Later, the water park announced the ride will never run again.

4. There are expected to be changes after more GOP moderates were elected to the Kansas Legislature in November. While more Republican moderates won victory in Kansas Legislature, the more conservative candidate of two major parties took the White House in November. Next year there could be a possible state shift in the moderate direction, while a possible federal shift in the conservative direction. Also in the November election, Kansas Supreme Court justices survived a challenge from conservatives.

Mayor Mark Holland and American Royal officials announced the American Royal would build new facilities in Wyandotte County. (File photo by Murrel Bland)

5. After looking for a new home for years, the American Royal announced on Oct. 25 that it was moving from Kansas City, Mo., to an area between 110th to 118th, from State to Parallel Parkway, in Kansas City, Kan.

Police and community leaders pleaded with the public to come forward with information to solve homicides in early September. (File photo)

6. The homicide rate in Kansas City, Kan., and neighboring Kansas City, Mo., was up during 2016. Community forums were held in Kansas City, Kan., on ways to reduce violence.

A groundbreaking was held Sept. 13, 2016, for a new Amazon distribution facility near the Turner Diagonal in Kansas City, Kan. (File photo)

7. Amazon announced it will build a new facility near Turner Diagonal.

8. UG implements new program to reduce blight, tear down older properties and transfer delinquent properites.

Indian Springs mall was torn down during 2016. (File photo)

9. Indian Springs mall was demolished.

10. Kansas Supreme Court hears arguments in school finance case, whether funding is adequate, with a decision expected sometime during 2017. The Legislature passed a school finance bill in June to satisfy an earlier court decision on whether funding was equitable. Its decision in 2017 could affect the state’s financial condition.

Among the notable leaders in the community who died during 2016 were Gloria Willis, long-time member of the Kansas City, Kan., Board of Education; Ray Byers, a Kansas City, Kan., architect; and Mary Ann Flunder, a long-time member of the Kansas City Kansas Community College Board of Trustees.

Fire reported at 46th and Garfield

A house fire was reported Friday morning near the 4600 block of Garfield Avenue, according to fire officials.

The first crew on the scene reported smoke and fire showing, and attacked the fire, according to officials.
A primary and secondary search showed the house was clear. The fire was extinguished, and the Red Cross was notified.

Changes underway for Kansas sexual predator program

Officials hope new format will help more offenders complete treatment

by Meg Wingerter, KHI News Service

More offenders are completing the sexually violent predator treatment program in Kansas, but state officials say they still need a bigger building to house those in treatment.

The program, based at Larned State Hospital, attempts to treat offenders who have completed their prison sentences but who were found to have a mental or personality disorder that placed them at a high risk of committing another violent sexual offense.

A Legislative Post Audit report found the program could run out of space as early as 2017. As of mid-December, the program had 261 patients. Its capacity, including reintegration facilities at Osawatomie State Hospital and Parsons State Hospital, is 264.

Tim Keck, interim secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, told a legislative committee last week that the department is looking into expanding the sexual predator treatment program into the building currently housing the Larned Juvenile Corrections Facility, which is scheduled to close early next year. Some renovations will be necessary, he said, but the department still needs to determine what they are and how much they will cost.

Kim Lynch, KDADS senior litigation counsel, said the department is examining options to reduce the program’s population or add more beds.

While offenders aren’t supposed to be confined for life, more have died than completed the program. Eight offenders have been released and 28 have died.

Mike Dixon, chief forensic psychologist at Larned State Hospital, said they have changed the program to increase the odds offenders will complete it. Participation in treatment is up, with 90 percent of offenders in the program expected to take part in January, he said.

While offenders aren’t supposed to be confined for life, more have died than completed the program. Eight offenders have been released and 28 have died.

The changes include reducing the process from seven steps to three tiers, where offenders go through therapy and learn skills to live in society without committing another sexual offense, Dixon said. In the second tier, they can go on supervised outings, and in the third, they move to a reintegration facility and have to get a job, transportation, housing and a therapist in the community before being released, he said.

“When they get to tier three, they’re pretty much self-sufficient,” he said.

As of mid-December, 18 offenders were on the third tier, Dixon said. Four completed the program this year, bringing the total to eight since the program started in 1994, he said.

The program staff now also assess offenders to determine their risk of committing another sex crime, their intellectual capabilities and factors like personality traits, addictions and trauma that could complicate their treatment, Lynch said. The results determine the kind of treatment they receive, she said.

“Say they have an anger management issue. Then they’ll get anger management treatment,” she said.

Before, all offenders received the same treatment, just at varied paces. Now, offenders with intellectual disabilities are in a separate track that emphasizes role-playing to counteract antisocial behavior, Lynch said.

Offenders also can learn skills they will need to live independently, such as budgeting, using a computer and interviewing for a job, Lynch said. Those skills could make it easier for offenders who complete treatment to transition to living independently, she said.

“Once residents were transferred (for reintegration), they felt they didn’t have the skills to be placed into society,” she said.

The nonprofit KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor reporting collaboration. All stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to when a story is reposted online.

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