November 29, 1908


Proposed to "Clean Up" the Residence
Districts of This Form of
Evil -- J. V. C. Karnes
Is Opposed.

What shall the city do with its social evil -- permit it to spread throughout the corporate limits, with occasional spasmodic efforts to drive it from the best residence districts, or restrict it to a definitely defined locality, where it will be under intelligent and close police surveillance?

This is a question as old as life itself. It has never been answered satisfactorily to everybody. There is no "crimes district" in Kansas City, and the result is far from satisfying even to those persons who are responsible for present conditions. The blight of the social evil has encroached upon many good residential neighborhoods, and even the business district has been affected. A movement is under way to segregate these women, and the plan was discussed by the tenement commission yesterday.

Rev. Dr. Daniel McGurk, pastor of the Grand Avenue Methodist Episcopal church, expressed himself as being heartily in sympathy with the proposed plan.

"I consider the plan to segregate these persons as being both practical and wholesome," said the doctor. "I know it is contended by some that such a plan would be equivalent to putting the approval of the new law upon this form of vice. I do not so consider it. To me it appeals as the surest way of putting the ban of the law on this traffic, and as means of protection to our children who must pass daily through districts infested by these women. I would go farther than that, and venture to say that such a plan, if put into operation, would be the means of saving one-third of those who would otherwise be condemned to a life of misery and shame."

J. V. C. Karnes, chairman of the board, opposed the proposition not only from a moral standpoint but he also took the position that the question was not properly before the commission. He contended that the board had no right to make suggestions as to any plan for regulating or abating this vice; that the question was purely one of morality, and being so that the board was exceeding its authority and the purpose for which it was created in attempting to assume to take any action in the matter.

Dr. J. L. Harrington took issue with Mr. Karnes on the question as to the right of the board to consider the question of segregation.

"This question is not one of morality alone," he said. "This board has the power and the right to consider whatever affects the health of the community. This form of vice is constantly spreading over our city and invading the so-called hotels and rooming houses. You will find these people in the same tenement house or same flat with perhaps twenty-five or fifty children who are brought in daily contact with them. The contaminating influences of this moral smallpox cannot be overestimated. More than that, if you choose to look at it from a strictly medical standpoint, the statistics are appalling. These conditions would be greatly alleviated if these persons were confined to some particular locality, where they could be regulated."

During the discussion it was stated that conditions along East Twelfth street and other districts where some effort was made to drive this traffic out is now practically as bad as ever. No action in the matter was taken by the board, but the members signified their deep interest in the matter and it will be brought up again at the next meeting.