Monday, January 31, 2011

70 percent of KC 911 calls now come from wireless phones

Statistics are in from our Communications Center for 2010, and they’re pretty impressive. We handled a total of 892,283 calls, of which 576,257 were 911 calls (the rest were non-emergency calls and transfers to other department elements or other outside agencies). That total is a slight increase over last year, in which we handled 881,214 calls.

The numbers that really reflect the times are how many wireless 911 calls we receive compared to landline 911 calls. We started tracking this in 2008. That year, 60 percent of all our 911 calls came from wireless phones. That increased to 65.6 percent in 2009, and in 2010 the number was 70.5 percent.

In just two years, the percentage of 911 callers using cell phones has climbed by 10 percentage points. That’s a pretty remarkable change in a short amount of time, and it requires more of 911 callers. With landlines, dispatchers can trace where calls are coming from. Cell phones can’t pinpoint locations with the same precision. That’s why the Mid-America Regional Council makes these suggestions about calling 911 from a cell phone:

“It is very important that you provide as much information as possible to the dispatcher. This includes:

• Your wireless phone number
• Your exact location
• The name of the road you are traveling on, direction you are headed and any physical landmarks
• How many miles you are from the nearest town or the nearest cross street.

Technology in use in the Kansas City region allows dispatchers to receive the phone number and approximate location from where the wireless 9-1-1 call originated. But it is still important to know your exact location in the event of an emergency. Make it a habit to note mile markers and other road signs that would help you identify where you are should you need to call 9-1-1.”

More information about calling 911 is available on MARC’s web site.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Best of luck to our Polar Plungers

Dozens of men and women from the Kansas City Missouri Police Department will do something that's frankly pretty crazy tomorrow: they're going to jump in a frigid lake. They're doing it for a great cause, though: to support Special Olympics Missouri, which is KCPD's charity of choice. Teams have formed from around the department, and they have raised money to help athletes with developmental disabilities.

One special KCPD member is taking the craziness one step further: Detective Donie Spaeth is our department's first ever Super Polar Plunger. She's jumping into Longview Lake 24 times in 24 hours prior to the big Polar Plunge tomorrow. Above is a photo of her coming out of her third dip today. She raised more than $3,000 to do this.

And before you think she's getting off easy because the weather got nice today, keep in mind that Polar Plunge organizers first had to cut through 8 inches of ice this morning to create a space for the plungers to get in. The water underneath remains close to freezing temperatures.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The eternal question of cops and donuts

Today, our "Why We Do What We Do" video series explores a very important topic: What's the deal with cops and donuts?

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Three recent homicides solved

Charges have been filed in two killings from this past weekend, and one from the previous week.

Last week, we reported the slaying of Earthy Huff Jr., found shot near 36th and Garfield. Jerrim L. Johnson, 18, has been charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in that case. The Kansas City Star has more about that case on their web site.

At about 1 a.m. Jan. 22, police found 43-year-old Ephrem Merrit-Esquivel dead in an alley in the 6200 block of E. 11th St. Oscar Cerna, 46, has now been charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in that case. Here's the Star story on those charges.

Three hours later on Jan. 22, at about 4 a.m., 29-year-old Andre Steele was dropped off by someone at Research Medical Center with gunshot wounds, from which he died a short time later. Latasha Hutchinson, 27, has now been charged with involuntary manslaughter in this case, which you can read more about here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Law enforcement continues to be a dangerous profession

CNN noted today that 10 police officers have been shot in the United States in a 24-hour period, and today is the funeral for two others from the Miami-Dade Police Department.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund also noted an "alarming increase" in line-of-duty deaths for police in 2010. They said, "The number of U.S. law enforcement fatalities spiked by 37 percent in 2010 - an alarming increase that follows two years of declining deaths among our nation's policing professionals." A total of 160 officers died in the line of duty last year. There was a 20 percent increase in officers killed by gunfire, and a 43 percent increase in officers killed in traffic accidents.

All of these statistics point to the simple fact that despite advances in safety technology, law enforcement continues to be a dangerous job. We stress this to our recruits and let them know this is a career in which their life could be on the line. Just after midnight today, as a matter of fact, one of our officers almost was run down by a car. He stopped a man for speeding at 9 Highway and 169 Highway. The man pulled over, and as soon as the officer approached the window, the driver turned his car at the officer and accelerated. The officer, fortunately, was able to jump out of the way in time, and the man was later caught by officers in Kansas City, Kan. Charges are pending against him for aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and a slew of other offenses.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to our brothers and sisters in blue and their loved ones who are suffering today. I ask that you keep the safety of officers here and elsewhere in your thoughts and prayers, as well.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Rethinking officer deployment

The below article in our monthly Informant newsletter outlines the possibility of a new way to deploy officers across Kansas City:

KCPD is testing a new program that would fundamentally change the way the department addresses crime and how officers are deployed.

The Strategic Deployment program is focused on improving the way division commanders make decisions and allocate their resources. It uses the latest technology for analyzing data, as well as an improved system of communication to help proactively address crime and target problem areas.

“This will make us more efficient and more effective,” Chief James Corwin said. “We’re going to be taking a lot of our resources and directing our focus at the players who are causing the problems.”

This past year, the CSTAR Unit began creating a framework for the program with tools, technology, and training for the patrol divisions to use. The program is fluid, so each patrol divisions can use the tools in ways that best meets their needs.

Major Bryon Price of the Professional Standards Division said one of the biggest changes the program will bring is how officers are deployed. Instead of restricting officers to an assigned geographic patrol sector, it allows commanders to look at their overall division area and shift officers to where they are needed most. It also encourages commanders to share resources among divisions.

“It’s really a paradigm shift for the department,” Major Price said. “It’s intelligence-led, not just based on crime statistics and personal knowledge.”

South Patrol was chosen as the pilot program and began using some of the new techniques in October 2010.

Each week, a committee of South Patrol supervisors from each watch and patrol meet to review crime stats and maps from the week before. They discuss strategies that are working and brainstorm ideas to address recurring problems or any major crimes.

“Strategic Deployment looks at the whole problem and looks at what resources we need to address the problem,” Major Robin Houston said. “Who can we contact, what relationships can be made, and what internally can we do to get better results.”

Major Houston said the program has helped improve communication among her officers, as well as focus the department on addressing issues more effectively. So far, she’s received positive feedback from the officers who appreciate the outlet for new ideas, as well as timely and pertinent information.

Already they’re seeing results. In previous years, South Patrol had seen an increase in business robberies during the holidays. Using that information, they proactively saturated the more common robbery areas with patrols, and they’ve already seen a drop in business robberies. From Nov. 20 to Dec. 28, 2010, robberies dropped 48 percent from the same period in 2009.

Major Price said Metro Patrol has begun testing the program, and he expects other patrol divisions to begin using the techniques as well.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Police honor Target, CVS employees and detectives for busting big theft ring

Pictured from left are Brooke Robinson of Target and Keri Christeson and Greg Leiker of CVS

In the past year, we've busted some major retail theft rings. These busts don't happen without the cooperation of the retailers involved, and today we honored some people from CVS and Target who went out of their way to help us stop a mother-and-son team of thieves. Here's what they and the detectives did:

On May 3, 2010, Detectives Chad Herriman and Tod Reaves learned from an informant that she was stealing thousands of dollars in health and beauty care products and supplying it to a man and his mother, who were then reselling the items at swap-and-shops and flea markets. The source said the man and his mother made lists of what they wanted her and other boosters to steal – everything from nail polish to detergent. The group would steal the requested items and sell them to the mother and son for pennies on the dollar.

Detectives Herriman and Reaves went under-cover and arranged five controlled sales with the mother-son thieves using purportedly stolen merchandise that was in fact donated by CVS and Target. Detectives Herriman and Reaves posed as boosters, and in their under-cover role, sold more than $6,800 worth of merchandise to the mother and son. They were paid $990 for these items. Detectives recorded each controlled sale and used Tactical Response Teams as take-down crews.

Once enough evidence was gathered, police got search warrants for the suspect’s homes and businesses. They found more than 24,300 items of stolen merchandise worth more than $177,000. The son claimed he had paid out more than $720,000 in the last year to boosters, and he said he paid them about 20% of the value of the items.

Sergeant Michael Foster said Detectives Herriman and Reaves identified and stopped a fencing operation that was costing the local economy a great deal. He said they were directly responsible for gathering information, maintaining confidential sources and coordinating with CVS and Target for controlled buys. Likewise, Sergeant Foster said solving the whole case would not have happened without the cooperation of Greg Leiker and Keri Christeson of CVS and Brooke Robinson and Mike Gudgell of Target.

He said, “Without their participation or donations, this case would not have been possible.”

Nor would the case have been solved without the long hours the Central Patrol Property Crimes Section and TRT 1 spent conducting surveillance, maintaining logs, documenting controlled sales, executing search warrants and recovering and documenting more than 24,000 pieces of property.

The mother, 64-year-old Alice Reed, is awaiting trial on a felony count of theft  greater than $25,000 and two felony counts of receiving stolen property. Her son, 45-year-old George Reed, is awaiting trial on the same counts plus an additional count of receiving stolen property.

Channel 41 did a nice piece on this particular theft ring when we served the search warrants in July, and you can watch their video here.

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Man shot at 36th and Garfield dies of injuries

At about 1 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18, officers were dispatched to the 3600 block of Garfield on the sound of shots fired. When police got there, they found a man lying in the driveway of 3523 Garfield suffering from apparent gunshot wounds. He died about 15 hours later and has been identified as 55-year-old Earthy L. Huff Jr. of Kansas City, MO.

Huff's family said they don't know why he would have been in the area of 35th and Garfield. Police are seeking information from anyone who may have had contact with Earthy Huff on Jan. 17 or who may have witnessed the incident. Anyone with information is asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477) or the Homicide Unit at 816-234-5043.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Behind the scenes of a ticket

If you've ever been pulled over and wondered what the officer is doing when he or she takes your driver's license while you sit and wait, this video explains that. It's the latest in our Why We Do What We Do video series:

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Witnesses wanted in third homicide of 2011

At about 1 a.m. Jan. 17, police were near 16th and Holmes handling a traffic problem from a private party in the area when they heard the sound of shots one block to the west. When they got to the scene, they found 19-year-old Orlando Smith of Kansas City, Mo., dead in the parking lot.

Initial investigation indicates the shooting resulted from a disturbance at the private party. The suspect is described as a black male with braids who left the scene in a dark, newer-model Jeep Liberty or Jeep Patriot. Police believe several people witnessed the shooting but left before talking to police. Anyone with information is asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Saying good-bye to one of our own

Tomorrow, the Kansas City Missouri Police Department will formally say good-bye to an excellent detective who has served and protected his community selflessly for the last 26 years. Detective Garry Wantland passed away January 12 after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Until his diagnosis, Detective Wantland didn’t use a sick day for 25 years.

Detective Wantland has received more than 100 commendations in his career here, but most of his work was done quietly and effectively behind the scenes. He was assigned to the Intelligence Unit at the time of his death and had been there for the last 16 years. He was the experts’ expert on organized crime in Kansas City. He even created his own training program on the history of organized crime here, and federal agencies often called him for his expertise.

He served on a task force with the FBI investigating all types of large-scale, complex, criminal operations. One of his FBI supervisors called him “a critical asset to the Kansas City Division’s Organized Crime Program,” and another said he loved to pair young agents with Detective Wantland because of all he could teach them. That supervisor also said, “If today I could choose one police officer to work within my division, it would certainly be Garry Wantland.”

Garry was the kind of guy who showed up early and left late, painstakingly hunting down every lead. He was well-liked and respected, and his untimely loss is a tremendous blow not only to our department and its investigations but to the many people here whose lives he touched. I ask that you please keep his family, friends and coworkers in your thoughts and prayers.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Project aims to clean up troubled neighborhood

This is a great story in our Informant newsletter about officers who literally are trying to clean up a troubled neighborhood:

While driving around in early 2010 in the Blue Hills neighborhood, a place she’d answered so many calls before, Officer Bonita Cannon knew something had to change.

“I started taking notes on each property, on what I thought may help the neighborhood look more desirable, from paint to merely picking up trash from the yard,” she said. “What would help homeowners if there were services available? What could I do? What could the police do besides respond to calls day in and day out?”

Thus was born Project Blue Hills. The project is a partnership between police and the Blue Hills Neighborhood Association and Community Action Network Center. Officers are going to each of the 3,000 homes in the Blue Hills neighborhood to ask residents what problems they’re having and what services they need. They’re also giving residents lists of resources to which they can reach out to improve their properties.

The Blue Hills neighborhood is roughly bounded by Volker Boulevard on the north, 63rd Street on the south, Paseo Boulevard on the West and Prospect Avenue on the east.

“Every single block you’re on, multiple houses are abandoned,” said Officer Frank Rorabaugh, who is assigned to the Blue Hills CAN Center with Officer Cannon. “There’s a place on Brooklyn where people dump all their trash. People are living in these neighborhoods, and the vast majority of them are good citizens who just don’t know what to do.”

In just four months, Metro Patrol officers have visited 1,264 homes. The biggest complaint they’ve heard from residents so far is about vacant houses. On one block of Wabash, six houses in a row sit empty. Working with City Codes Enforcement and Dangerous Buildings divisions, they’ve gotten three vacant houses torn down and put several more on the waiting list for demolition. They’ve worked to board up and secure many others.

The officers even partnered with Sutherland’s Lumber to provide pest control to help a resident whose house was getting overrun with rats coming from the vacant house next door. Home Depot has offered up free lumber to repair porches in the neighborhood, and Bledsoe’s has volunteered to cut grass at vacant lots. The officers also worked with volunteers to clean up two abandoned properties in the 5600 block of Garfield. Officer Rorabaugh said the Metropolitan Community Service Program, operated by the Kansas City Crime Commission, is now regularly cleaning up the illegal dump on Brooklyn.

Neighborhood clean-up normally isn’t the purview of police, but Officer Rorabaugh said a better-maintained community will displace crime.

“If we can clean up these streets, get rid of a lot of the empty houses where people use narcotics, a lot of this element will move on,” he said.

Officer Cannon said the best part of Project Blue Hills is getting involved with neighbors. She said they’ve given officers valuable information about problem and drug houses.

“We’ve met so many great and wonderful people,” she said. “The citizens … are really excited to see that we aren’t just a uniform. They love that police officers care enough about their neighborhood to bring a positive change.”

But Project Blue Hills won’t be successful with officers alone, Officer Cannon said.

“We hope to motivate each citizen of Blue Hills to care enough to help with revitalizing the Blue Hills Community,” she said.

Officer Cannon has drafted a five-year plan for Project Blue Hills to turn the neighborhood around. She plans to seek grants and other community partnerships to reach that goal.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

East Patrol surveys

Like many of our other patrol divisions, the East Patrol Division has been doing surveys to follow up with residents who call police for service, see them at a community meeting or get pulled over. Sergeants contact the people involved to see if they received all the services police could offer them. They’ve even surveyed the people they arrested. Out of 336 surveys that were returned between July and December 2010, 97 percent of people said they were satisfied with police services.

Interestingly, complaints filed against East Patrol officers during 2010 fell by about 35 percent. While we don’t know the exact cause of this drop, I’d like to attribute some of it to the follow-up surveys. They give residents an outlet of feedback to the police department other than us just taking a report. Here’s what some of the residents had to say on their surveys:

• From a stranded motorist: “The officer was great. He stopped and asked me what was wrong and was very nice and respectful to me and my kids.”

• From an East-side crime victim: “The help we received today from the outstanding KCMO officers was invaluable. We need more officers of their caliber. … Too often only the bad stuff about officers is reported and as a concerned citizen, I attest to their ability to ‘serve and protect’!”

• From an assault victim: “The officer was very helpful and compassionate. He took pictures of my injury. He cared.”

• And even from a man who was unhappy he was arrested for a domestic violence assault: “The officer stopped the problem, I guess.”

What the surveys have revealed are comments like this about our officers are not the exception. By and large, citizens believe their police officers are doing a good job, and I would argue that’s because they are. We’re doing everything in our power to serve Kansas City with integrity, accountability, and the rest of our critical values.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Audit recommends better use of data collected from use-of-force forms


Kansas City Missouri Police collect a lot of data about use of force among officers, but they need to do a better job of using and disseminating that data, according to an internal audit report released today.

The Internal Audit Unit found the data was collected well on paper forms whenever an officer used deadly force, a non-deadly weapon or caused or incurred injury, but the forms weren’t being put into databases accessible to as many department elements as they could be. For example, defensive tactics instructors at the Police Academy were unable to access the information. They use that data to determine whether any of the techniques they teach cause injury to suspects or officers and adjust their instruction accordingly.

Internal auditors recommended all the information currently collected on Response to Resistance forms be input into a new employee program called SEERS (Successful Employee Enhancement and Retention System). This would allow all pertinent elements access to the use-of-force information and identify any officers who repeatedly were involved in incidents in which force was used.

The Internal Audit Unit also released results of its post audit about “buy money,” which is used to conduct under-cover drug and criminal investigations. The audit found under-cover units are doing a better job at securing, tracking and reporting expenditures of this money.

The audit reports are available online at For more information about the audits, contact Internal Audit Unit Manager Tom Gee at 816-889-6051.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Suspect sought in murder at Northland gas station

UPDATE: The juvenile suspect has been identified and was taken into custody less than two days after the homicide. Thank you for your assistance.

Police are looking for the person pictured above in the murder of 28-year-old Salvatore Mandacina. Officer were dispatched on a shooting at about 7:36 p.m. yesterday, Jan. 9, to the BP gas station at 5002 NE Parvin Road. Officers found Mandacina dead from apparent gunshot wounds inside the business. Detectives believe he was killed in an apparent robbery attempt.

The suspect pictured above (click on the picture to see a larger version) was captured on surveillance video. The suspect is wearing a red hat with a distinctive scorpion-type logo. Police believe the suspect may live in the area.

Anyone with information is asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fraud Unit warns of "tabnabbing"

Our Fraud Unit wants to get information out about an emerging trend in computer scams. It's called "tabnabbing" or "tabnapping." It occurs when victims are online and have multiple browsing tabs open (a feature in newer Internet browsers). If victims happen to open a tab with a fraudulent site, hackers can view, copy or open the information in the other tab.

For example, say you're checking your bank statement online and remember that you wanted to check movie times. You leave the tab with your bank information open and open a second tab to search for movie times. You could end up on a site posing as a legitimate entertainment site, but it's really run by a hacker. That hacker can then break into the other tab you have open and steal your banking information, user names and passwords. More information is available in this article from CNET.

Fortunately, KCPD has not received any reports of this scam, but we wanted to let you know about it so you won't be a victim. Our Fraud Unit recommends anyone conducting financial transactions on the Internet to only have the secure financial site open, on a single tab, as the transactions are being conducted.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Top 20 crash locations of 2010

Our traffic analyst has compiled a list of the highest-crash locations in Kansas City, Mo., in 2010. You can see how it compares to the 2009 list here. You'll note that last year's No. 1 spot - I-435 and I-70, which had 107 crashes, didn't even make the top 20 list this year. Engineering improvements and increased traffic enforcement in the area could be to credit for the change, but more study will be needed. 

Please use additional caution in the areas listed below, the biggest crash locations of the past year (click on the list to see a larger version):

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Monday, January 3, 2011

KCPD's pictorial year in review

Many big and little things happened for KCPD this past year from the opening of a new police station to our first-ever active shooter training inside a school. This video shows some of our department's highlights from this past year.