Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Kansas City No Violence Alliance

Today I joined several of our partners in announcing KC NoVA – the Kansas City No Violence Alliance. This focused deterrence law enforcement initiative seeks to reduce violent crime in Kansas City and is a partnership between the Kansas City Police Department, Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, City of Kansas City, U.S. Attorney’s Office and Missouri Board of Probation and Parole.

The National Institutes of Justice define focused deterrence as “A crime prevention program that targets a specified crime problem by applying a concentrated strategy or tactic within a specified high-crime-intensity area. That is, intense traffic enforcement within a high-crime area will have a general deterrence effect, but intense traffic enforcement that uses a specified approach to stop only suspicious individuals within a highly defined area.

A similar approach has seen success in other cities like Boston, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Rochester, N.Y. We took the best of those models and have put them together here in Kansas City.

The leaders of these partnership agencies have been meeting since January to determine the best way to address violent crime. This is one piece of many, but it is a significant one. The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of victims. To do so, the idea is to go after the most violent criminals we have in Kansas City. We have a list of about 20 right now (that list changes as some are murdered or incarcerated). We will work hard to get firearms out of the hands of those who should not legally possess them. Eighty-three percent of this year’s homicides have been carried out with a gun.

For less violent offenders – and those who can be reached outside the criminal justice system – we want to give them opportunities. This can be everything from job training to anger management. Social services will be a big piece of KC NoVA.

Police will not take a “zero-tolerance” approach in communities devastated by violent crime. We will be respectful and professional. But we will go after the most violent offenders. We will map out who they know and determine the best ways to prosecute them in such a way that they will no longer pose a risk to the community.

Much appreciation is due Greater Kansas LISC, which secured a $74,000 grant for KC NoVA. About $44,000 will go to hiring a manager for the project. The other $30,000 will go to the University of Missouri Kansas City’s Department of Criminology. UMKC will begin the project by doing some extensive research. Through interviews with community members and law enforcement, faculty will conduct a social networking analysis that identifies individuals known to be committing or contributing to neighborhood violence. The analysis also will map all the linkages between these individuals, including informal alliances or disputes.

Individuals who sincerely want to choose a new path will be offered services to help them. Those who don’t will be severely prosecuted.

Anytime we try something new, there are critics. Those who say, “It’s just another program.” But we aim for this to be sustainable and effective. It may take a year or more to see results, but I am confident it ultimately will lead to a safer Kansas City.

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