Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fighting crime on Armour Boulevard

With the help of a determined assistant city prosecutor, we’re using a unique tool to fight crime in an area of town that needs some assistance. The Armour Boulevard Restriction Zone was established last year to keep habitual criminals out of the area roughly bounded by Walnut on the west, Paseo on the east, 33rd Street on the north and 37th Street on the south. The area has been a hotbed of criminal activity – there were six homicides in 2009 in this small zone. Police receive lots of calls there about narcotics, shootings, and quality of life issues.

Assistant City Prosecutor Todd Wilcher worked with us, municipal judges and the managers of several large, multi-unit, residential properties on Armour to create the Armour Boulevard Restriction Zone. It basically works like this: whenever anyone is cited with a city ordinance violation in this zone, Mr. Wilcher is notified. When the case is prosecuted, if the judge determines the offense is serious enough, the usual recommended sentence is two years’ probation. One of the defendant’s conditions of the probation is to stay out of the Armour Boulevard Restriction Zone. If they are seen there during the term of their probation, Wilcher will file a motion to revoke the probation, and they will go to jail for up to 180 days.

So far, four people have gone to jail on this program – one has served two stints – and stayed imprisoned for an extended period of time (at least 60 days each). Another 11 people are on the restriction list now. If community members, private security officers or police officers in the area spot them within the bounds of the zone, Todd Wilcher is notified immediately and begins work to revoke their probation. At their original court date, the defendants and their attorneys are all provided maps of exactly where they’re supposed to avoid, so there’s no question about it. Wilcher said none of them actually reside in the Restriction Zone.

Although it’s still a fairly new program, Wilcher and officers on the street are hearing good feedback from neighbors. It’s keeping out habitual troublemakers, and word is spreading among the criminal element that police and prosecutors aren’t playing around. They will go to jail and serve significant time if they’re spotted in the Zone. It’s a program that requires a lot of resources on behalf of the prosecutor, but it’s something we hope to see expanded to other troubled areas in the future.

In addition to this, the Missouri Housing Development Corporation allocated $75,000 for police officers to work off-duty security at three Armour Boulevard apartment buildings with a disproportionately high amount of criminal activity. These officers are now on site at these properties most of the day and night. We also are using a portable camera system to monitor activities on the streets from the Central Patrol Division Station. Tomorrow, I'll be posting some dramatic video of a shooting we captured on those cameras and how we used them to track to down the suspect.

We are very data-driven in our crime-fighting approaches, and the data was showing far too much crime in this small area along Armour. As you can see, we’re taking a number of steps and partnering with a number of stakeholders to attack problems where they arise. This is just one example of the way we’re using our resources, resources from the criminal justice system and concerned community members to reduce crime in Kansas City.

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