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Pastor Willie Thornton. video

Neighbors blame church outreach for increased crime

Mount Washington Missionary Baptist Church is finding that no good deed goes unpunished. Several people who live in the neighborhood said the church is creating a dangerous crime situation from squatters, break-ins, prostitution and shootings by handing out free food.

“That’s a religious magnet over there,” Sonny Gibson, who lives at 36th and Wabash says. “It draws everybody that comes for the food program over there. I need help. I don’t want to be a victim.”

Gibson, who has lived in the Kansas City area for 40 years, said the church’s outreach program is attracting the wrong crowd and when the church closes its doors, the people stay. “Before they had the feeding program, they didn’t have anything over here,” he said. “24/7, people are here now.”

The church hands out between 1,500 and 2,000 meals a month, Pastor Willie Thornton said.

The food distribution center was the scene of a shooting Monday morning where one person was seriously injured.

“I feel sorry for the victim, young man, he always helped around the church, he would clean up, he would try to talk to those individuals who were dealing drugs,” Thornton said. “The suspect didn’t like the way the victim looked at him, and he entered our building, shot him and left.”

Thornton said the church has a responsibility to help people in need, and he has no plans to end the program.

“We have made a difference, but what comes along with making a difference we have people to hang around the church because really, the church is the refuge,” he said. “We were called here to do ministry. What we can’t do is just church. We have to try to impact this community. It starts with the church. Then it also starts with the legal system and the social services to come in and law enforcement. We have to come together as a team.”

The church has suspended its meal programs until new security measures are in place.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice