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Police use pepper spray to break up Plaza fight among teens

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

A teenage brawl broke out on the Country Club Plaza over the weekend, and Kansas City police say they were forced to use pepper spray to break it up.

It was just one more problem involving teens in the popular shopping district in recent years.

The latest instance of this, large crowds of teens getting into problems on the Plaza, happened Saturday night by the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain.

And it is raising questions about how well the city's curfew for young people is working.

Too often young people are hanging around the Plaza unsupervised, and sometimes at night fights break out between large groups of teens. Some families visiting the Plaza say the violence could start keeping them away.

"The trouble is starting about 8 p.m., so I'm going to leave by 7 p.m. Then it is going to start by 7 p.m., and then it is going to just gradually get worse and worse. Then you are just going to end up not coming at all," parent Ryan McGinnis said.

That is where the city's curfew is designed to help. From Memorial Day through the end of September, children under 18 can't be in any entertainment district, like the Plaza, by themselves after 9 p.m.

But, city leaders are still seeing the same problems.

"It says that we as city officials have to do all that we can to make sure that our young people have safe places to go," Councilman Jermaine Reed said.

Reed said teen programs through the mayor's office helped this summer.

"We can't necessarily govern everywhere and everything for our young people to do all throughout the year. It is important that people in the community do their part, but then also, parents have to be parents," Reed said.

The city is also considering expanding the curfew year-round, but Reed said it shouldn't just be about the Plaza and shouldn't be too punitive. He thinks police using pepper spray goes too far.

"We do have to make sure that we're doing it in a way where it's respectful. In a way where it is not intimidating and forceful," Reed said.

Kansas City police say they followed their standard protocol in using the pepper spray Saturday night to break up such a large crowd and end the fights going on.

They said the teens did leave after that so they didn't issue any citations for curfew violations.  There were also no arrests and no injuries reported.

Teens crowding the Plaza has been a concern for the city for years. Crowds of teens got out of hand back in April. Then in April 2012, there was a report of shots fired in a parking garage near West 47th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

In August 2011, Kansas City Mayor Sly James was touring the Plaza when another shooting took place. Three people were hurt. After that incident, James recommended a curfew for teens in the summer.

KCTV5 investigative reporter Stacey Cameron looked into the curfew back in June. At that time, only 34 citations were issued for curfew violations.

James was asked Monday what he thought about no curfew violations being issued or arrests made during the incident.

"I'm not a copy. I'm a mayor. We hire people to do the things that police do," he said. "They have authority to act and use their training and judgement and policies and procedures to do those things. I'm not going to second guess whether they should have been handing out tickets or using pepper spray. They were there. I wasn't."

KCTV5's DeAnn Smith contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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