Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Officers do fantastic job getting illegal firearms off streets

Today I recognized two officers who have really dedicated themselves to making the community they serve a safer place. I presented the Chief’s Coin to Officers Bryan Britten and Michael Holsworth of the East Patrol Division this afternoon. The Coin is given at the Chief’s discretion, and I have awarded only one other one in my ten months on the job.

On their own, Officers Britten and Holsworth initiated a gun suppression project in the East Patrol Division inside what would later be designated as a crime hot spot in our hot spot policing initiative. They already knew that neighborhood needed attention (I’m not identifying it so as not to let criminals know where we’re concentrating our efforts). In one year, the officers recovered 18 firearms within their self-designated project area as well as 27 in the rest of their sector for a total of 45 firearms recovered. This is unheard of. Our Crime Lab later linked one of the weapons they seized to two homicides. The investigation into those is still ongoing, so I can’t say more at this time, but this piece of evidence will be vital.

The officers said they did this by “knowing their bad guys.” They did a great job targeting those who were involved in criminal activity and getting them and their weapons off the streets. Most of the people in these neighborhoods are law-abiding citizens, but the few who engage in criminal activity make the whole community unsafe. Thanks to proactive officers like Bryan Britten and Michael Holsworth, community members’ sense of security can begin to return.

Watch more about these officers on KCTV Channel 5.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Six aggravated assault victims pursue prosecution thanks to Community Support Division

Our Community Support Division (CSD) is continuing to make inroads and assist communities impacted by violence. Members of the Division so far have gone to more than 700 homes to reach out to residents in what we’re calling the “Community Impact Zone,” which is in one of the areas of the city identified as a violent crime hotspot.

CSD hired two summer employees – one in high school and one starting college – who I assigned the task of making phone calls to the uncooperative victims of more than 140 aggravated assaults that have occurred in 2012. Many of the assaults had multiple victims, so a total of 202 calls were made. Because of those calls, six victims have decided to cooperate in the prosecution of their cases. The Assault Squad is following up with them and working to present their cases to the prosecutor. The summer employees also made the victims aware of social services that are available to them whether they decide to prosecute or not. This kind of outreach will be continuing. As pointed out in a Kansas City Star article, victims of aggravated assault who choose not to prosecute those who hurt them often perpetuate the cycle of violence through retaliation, and we want to stop that.

Another thing CSD has implemented that has been very successful is the Community Crisis Intervention Program. This program takes the idea that someone who has been through a crisis and/or traumatic situation needs some counseling and applies it to a group of people. It’s often used for first responders and those who come into the aftermath of a traumatic event. We have applied this to four different communities that have suffered from violence. After their meetings, they have been empowered and eager to take control of the safety and security of their neighborhoods.

Additionally, CSD is working with Missouri Probation and Parole to create a Resource Fair attended by several community organizations. These organizations can assist offenders with myriad resources from basic needs like food, clothing and transportation to job skill training, mentoring and mental health services.

The CSD supports crime victims, their families, witnesses and more. We intend for the division to work more on crime prevention efforts in the future, as well.

For more information about financial support for violent crime victims and their families, go to the web site for the Missouri Department of Public Safety’s Crime Victims’ Compensation Program.
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Police to honor victims at DUI checkpoints


Kansas City Police will launch a new campaign to remember the victims of drunk driving incidents while preparing for a statewide impaired driving enforcement effort.

The statewide “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement campaign kicked off at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 17, at the Kansas City Regional Police Academy, 6885 N.E. Pleasant Valley Road. The enforcement will run from Aug. 17 through Labor Day, Sept. 3. In launching the campaign, KCPD joined the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), Missouri State Highway Patrol, Smithville Police Department and Annette Murray, who lost her sister and niece to a drunk driver.

In addition to kicking off the Drive Sober enforcement campaign, Kansas City Police also will introduce their efforts to honor local victims who have lost their lives to drunk drivers. In partnership with MoDOT and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, KCPD will dedicate their upcoming sobriety checkpoints to these victims. Each checkpoint will honor a different victim by featuring two signs – one at the beginning of the check-lane with the victim’s picture and another at the end saying the date the victim was killed. After each checkpoint, the victims’ families will be given these metal signs to keep.

“It’s a way to really drive home the toll drunk driving takes on human life,” said Major Rich Lockhart, commander of KCPD’s Special Operations Division. “Many people ask, ‘Why do you do checkpoints?’ The person on that sign is why.”

The first victims to be honored at a DUI checkpoint will be Diane and Anna Bronson, the 44-year-old mother and 11-year-old daughter from Belton, Mo., who were killed on July 4, 2011. A driver whose blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit was driving the wrong way on Interstate 435 that day and slammed into the Bronsons’ vehicle at 63rd Street in Kansas City. In March 2012, the driver was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Annette Murray, the sister of Diane and aunt of Anna, spoke about the cost of that drunk driver’s actions at the kick-off event Friday.

In 2011, sixteen people in Kansas City died at the hands of an impaired driver, and another 49 suffered disabling injuries.

KCPD will join other law enforcement agencies from throughout the state with stepped-up patrols and DUI checkpoints to look for impaired drivers from Aug. 17 – Sept. 3.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Police are ready for the new school year

As more and more school districts and private schools return to class this week and in the coming weeks, we ask that you be extra cautious on the roads. Watch for students on foot, in buses and teenage drivers. Drivers must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop for buses loading and unloading children.

We will be conducting extra traffic enforcement in school zones to help these students stay safe. We also have received a grant to enforce seat belt usage among teen drivers, so you may see additional police presence around high schools for those purposes, as well.

And this school year marks the first time City Ordinance 120180 has been in place regarding compulsory school attendance. It went into effect yesterday, in fact. Police officers and school district personnel have conducted truancy sweeps in the past, but there were few repercussions. This ordinance allows penalties against parents of truant children ranging from a warning to community service to a $500 fine. Truancy leads to increased crime – everything from burglaries to vandalism – and we hope this will now be less of an issue. 

A new school year isn’t all about enforcement, however. To help those who may not have the tools necessary for academic success, our Records Unit is helping several students with their fourth annual school supply drive. The Police Athletic League partnered with the Upper Room Inc. throughout the summer to bring dozens of students up to grade level in reading.

Many police department members are sending their own children back to school now and in the coming weeks, and we all are hoping for a great year.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Members of Entrant Officer Class 145 are on the streets

As many area students head back to class, one group has just graduated: the 145th Entrant Officer Class of the Kansas City Regional Police Academy. This group of 17 graduated Thursday, August 9, and all of them are now on the streets. They will be riding with a field training officer and learning the ropes until Oct. 21, at which time their performance will be reviewed. If they pass, they will be allowed to answer calls for service on their own. They will be reviewed once again six months from now to determine whether they passed their probationary period and achieve the full rank of officer.

It was a proud moment to swear in this class, my first as chief. Below is the oath of office I administered to the new officers and by which they have sworn to abide:

I do solemnly swear

That I will support the Constitution, the laws of the United States and the State of Missouri,

That I will observe the provisions of the charter and the ordinances of Kansas City,

And that I will faithfully discharge all my duties as a member of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Force

So help me God.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

New technology will assist in serious crash investigations


Kansas City Police will be able to clear serious accidents off roadways more quickly thanks to new equipment purchased by the Missouri Department of Transportation in conjunction with KC Scout.

“By the design of this equipment, officers are often able to complete complicated investigations without unnecessarily exposing officers to traffic,” said Rusty James, Incident Management Coordinator for Scout. “By investigating the incidents in this fashion, there is no further traffic backup. This technology is recognized in the courts as highly accurate, resulting in successful prosecutions.”

Scout and MoDOT purchased four Sokkia total stations and two Archer Bluetooth evidence recorders valued at $35,000 for KCPD. This equipment is used to create forensic maps of incident scenes. KCPD’s crash documentation equipment was last updated in 2008, but James said technology has made leaps and bounds since then. The new total stations better protect officers and motorists.

“Kansas City Police investigate more fatality wrecks than anyone in the area, and we want to keep them safe, as well as the drivers around them,” James said.

KCPD investigated 60 fatal crashes in 2011 and 41 so far in 2012.

But the department’s 2008 equipment still works well and would be ideal for smaller law enforcement agencies with lighter accident investigation caseloads. Scout and MoDOT will be distributing KCPD’s current equipment to other police departments who never would have had the opportunity to have such crash documentation technology before.

“The Kansas City Metro Traffic Incident Management Program is being used as a model around the country,” James said. “Our example of what can be accomplished with these partnerships will be used in developing future programs nationwide.”

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Homicides are at lowest point in five years

After a disturbing start to 2012, Kansas City’s homicide rate is now at its lowest point in five years. We have 61 homicides to date so far. At this time during the last four years, we were at 65 homicides, with the exception of 2009, when we had 72.

The summer months are typically the most violent of the year, and August tends to be the most challenging. I am heartened the killings have been kept in check. Although 61 families are mourning the loss of loved ones to violence this year, I am grateful there are not more. Still, 61 is far too many.

I often hear that Kansas City has “an escalating homicide rate,” and that simply is not true. Many factors contribute to the rate – everything from employment to education. Law enforcement, of course, plays a small but very important role. I have said repeatedly that the vast majority of these homicides are not random. People involved in criminal activity are more likely to be victims of violence. By clamping down on crime in hot spot neighborhoods, police are working to stop the activities that lead to killings. I appreciate the officers and other department members who regularly patrol and work in these neighborhoods and those who are on special assignment there.

I also appreciate the many citizens who have stepped up to make their neighborhoods safer. They are cooperating with law enforcement, submitting tips and making a big difference.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

City's youth programming brings peace to the Plaza

Nights at the Country Club Plaza have been quiet so far this summer. But not far away, a youthful crowd is anything but quiet. They’re having swim parties, playing video games, dancing to a professional DJ, learning moves from hip hop instructors, participating in 3-on-3 basketball and Xbox tournaments, watching movies, using computers and having snacks and drinks.

This past weekend alone (July 27-28), 1,050 high-schoolers went to the Brush Creek Community Center to participate in Club KC, a free summer weekend hangout for young people presented by the City of Kansas City. Another 420 middle-schoolers gathered at the Gregg Klice and Tony Aguirre Community Centers last weekend. Those numbers have steadily increased since the City launched the program June 22.

This matters to police because this time last year and in 2010, we were devoting considerable resources to keeping the Plaza safe. Large crowds of young people gathered there, intimidating patrons, vandalizing property and occasionally erupting in violence. We have not had any major incidents on the Plaza this summer and no problems with rowdy crowds. This can be attributed to several things: curfews imposed last year and increased police presence. But I believe the opportunity the City is providing youth is the primary reason.

Club KC has shown that if you give young people (it’s open to ages 12-18) a place to go, they’ll go there and be constructive. Our officers provide security at Club KC events, and there have been no problems at them.

It takes resources for Parks and Recreation to put on this programming, but it’s difficult to argue how well it’s working. How much more money would it cost to put a sizeable police presence on the Plaza every weekend? How much tax revenue would the City lose if residents stopped patronizing businesses there out of fear? A small investment in community centers and their programming saves both the KCPD and the entire city a lot in the long run.

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