After decades of neighborhood violence, this Kansas City woman 'can feel the changes'
From 2001-2021, more than 20% of Kansas City's homicides have occurred in the Santa Fe neighborhood. Last year, the neighborhood became the focus of KC Common Good's efforts to reduce violence by addressing the root causes. Since then, it's seen a 78% decrease in homicides, leaving Marquita Taylor "cautiously optimistic."
For more than three decades, Marquita Taylor has called Kansas City's Santa Fe neighborhood home. She's actively participated in the Santa Fe Neighborhood Association, and for the last six years has been its president.
"I've seen a trend in the past, I'd say, 20 years of [the neighborhood] progressively getting worse," said Taylor.
Once boasting well-maintained, large homes owned by affluent Kansas Citians, decades of disinvestment in the historic neighborhood have resulted in the deterioration of buildings and a rise of crime.
The 4.16-square-mile area between 27th Street and Linwood Boulevard, and Prospect Avenue to Indiana Avenue, accounted for one-fifth of the Kansas City's homicides from 2001-2021.
Taylor has experienced her own brush with gun violence on multiple occasions, and said staying in the neighborhood all of these years "certainly hasn't been easy."
Now, a partnership between the neighborhood association, city leaders, nonprofits, the police department and religious leaders is collectively working to address the root causes of crime — giving Taylor newfound hope.
KC 360 is modeled after Omaha 360, which drastically reduced the homicide rate in Omaha. It began investing thousands of hours into community cleanups, listening sessions and canvasing the Santa Fe neighborhood with information about engagement opportunities and social service-related resources.
"I can actually see it. I can see the changes. I can feel the changes," said Taylor. "But I've got to lead that effort. And I've got to keep the neighbors engaged."
Since becoming the focus of KC 360 in June 2022, homicides in the Santa Fe neighborhood have decreased by 78%.
Leaders with the violence prevention collective say this progress is merely the foundation and much more work is required.
"I'm a cautious optimistic," said Taylor. "Because I know there's so much more to do. But this certainly sets a standard. It gives me fuel to go to my next neighborhood meeting."