While so much of our other crime is trending downward, shootings and homicides remain a persistent issue in our city. Although police are by no means solely responsible for the increase or decrease in these crimes, we are obligated to do everything in our power to address them and bring offenders to justice.
We also know we can’t work in a vacuum. It takes partnerships across the city and an evaluation of best practices nationwide to make the systemic changes needed to impact our stubborn violent crime rate. In 2019, Kansas City had 148 homicides and 491 non-fatal shootings.
A focus on prolific violent offenders
One of the places where you can see that change is happening is with the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, or KC NoVA. KC NoVA has been and continues to be about focused deterrence, but after extensive evaluation, KC NoVA switched its enforcement strategy last year from targeting group-related violence to targeting individuals who are frequently involved in violent, gun-related crimes. This approach has seen great success in cities like Tampa, which has had a dramatic reduction in violent crime. Although the number of these violent offenders is low, they are responsible for the vast amount of our violent crime. Research from Tampa identified that 6% of their violent offenders were responsible for 60% of violent crime.
As a reminder, KC NoVA is a partnership between KCPD, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, The Jackson County Prosecutor, FBI, ATF, the Mayor’s Office and Missouri Probation and Parole. All of those partners remain at the table with us, and they are integral in reducing the gun-related crimes that plague Kansas City. We work together now more than ever.
But homicides and non-fatal shootings continue to be an issue in Kansas City, so we needed to adapt. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Safety Partnership spent 18 months with us evaluating NoVA and advising us on how we could move forward. The result is this new enforcement strategy that targets the trigger-pullers.
Reviewing non-fatal shootings
The Public Safety Partnership also introduced us to a best practice from police in our peer city of Milwaukee. As of January 8, we are now conducting weekly shooting review meetings. These cover all homicides and non-fatal shootings that took place in the past week and follow up on case progress from previous weeks. Again, this is driven by partnerships with state and federal prosecutors and Missouri Probation and Parole. All of the partners attend the meetings with our investigative and patrol elements to ensure each case is investigated to the best of its ability.
This new meeting of criminal justice partners emphasizes accountability: each of the partners – including KCPD – is holding each other responsible for effectively carrying out their role in the criminal justice process. This is a great improvement in communication and accountability through the whole system.
Adding investigative resources
With the dawn of the New Year, we have doubled the number of detectives assigned to work non-fatal shooting cases. All too often, many of the victims and suspects in these incidents later become victims or suspects in homicides. With 491 non-fatal shootings last year (a 9% increase from 2018), we have doubled the number of detectives in our Assault Squads from 12 to 24. They are charged with investigating cases in which someone is assaulted with a weapon but survives.
We also have added eight homicide detectives, bringing the total number to 32.
These shifts have led to us moving resources from other places, like Mounted Patrol. That decision wasn’t popular, but it is needed to focus resources on stopping the perpetrators of gun violence in our city.
Ultimately, police can’t be there every time someone decides to resolve an argument with a gun. If you know someone who is planning violence, please let us know. We are making changes, however, to identify those most involved with gun violence, work their case to the fullest extent and ensure accountability with the help of our partners in the criminal justice system and the community.
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