Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Community relationships, data lead to safer city

Kansas City Police conducted a big crime prevention initiative on Saturday. It involved tactical teams, some of our most advanced equipment and vehicles, and there were children everywhere. You can read the Kansas City Star article about it here

Many people may not have seen this community picnic and fair as a crime prevention event, but that is how I viewed it. Because at this picnic at 31st and Indiana, relationships were forged. People who may never before have felt comfortable approaching a police officer were enjoying watching their children try on tactical gear and climb in our vehicles. They mingled with the many officers who came and brought their families. And those urban-core children are learning to see police as people they can trust and turn to for help.

That is where crime prevention starts: positive relationships between the community and the police. Building those relationships has been the cornerstone of my tenure as police chief. It is something I stress to all KCPD staff and something I bring up at just about every meeting I attend. It’s why I try to get out into the neighborhoods as much as I can. And it’s why I launched the Community Support Division to enhance our outreach and victim support efforts.

We can throw out arrest statistics all day long, but those are reactive numbers. I want the Kansas City Missouri Police Department to work to proactively prevent crime. As I said, trusting relationships between the police and public are the foundation of crime prevention. Smarter policing also can impede criminal activity, and we are increasingly working toward that. Here are some examples of the data-driven strategies we’re undertaking to make Kansas City safer:

         Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA) – This partnership between police, prosecutors, Missouri Probation and Parole and the University of Missouri-Kansas City targets those most likely to commit violent crime. It analyzes the networks of people involved in criminal activity, and law enforcement then goes after those at the epicenters. They are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Those on the fringes of the criminal networks are offered social services to turn their lives around. If they choose not to accept the help, they also face prosecution.

         Hot Spot Policing – I began this policing approach soon after I took office. We are allocating extra officers to the areas of the city where we know violent crime is most likely to take place. Putting additional resources in these areas is working.

         Law Enforcement Resource Center – This center features several components – crime analysts, detectives who collect and disperse intelligence information to officers and detectives on the street, crime mapping and more. Read more about it in our Informant newsletter

Data informs the majority of our decisions, like where and how to deploy officers and equipment, or who is most likely to commit violent crime.

Police are not saviors. We cannot fix the many societal ills that lead to crime. We are just a piece of the puzzle that includes partners like educators, faith-based organizations, local government, non-profits and businesses. We appreciate the work all these segments of the community do to make this city a safe place to live, work and play. 

We are not the only solution to crime prevention, but we must do everything possible to be of value to the community. We have to use our resources in the most intelligent ways possible. We must get out of our cars and listen to what the public has to say. We need to forge alliances with the law-abiding residents of this city, who are the vast majority. We should let the community know they can trust us and come to us with problems or information about crime. I have been working on these relationships from Day 1 and will continue to do so. I’m trying to make it the priority of every member of this department. Whether that takes the form of talking to neighbors at a shooting scene or inviting children to take a peek inside our armored vehicles, all of these interactions are valuable and forge the path to a safer community.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What's being done about gun violence in Kansas City

I want to share with you a blog Kansas City Mayor Sly James posted last month. It outlines several steps the City and Police Department are taking to reduce gun violence and proposes other things that could make a difference.

He notes that police cannot solve this problem, and he is correct. Violence is a community-wide issue and requires a community-wide solution. Mayor James points out education is a major factor in violence prevention, and I’m happy to see the progress of the Turn the Page program. That program and ones like it, such as The Upper Room, are creating positive futures for youth who might otherwise have turned to criminal activity. I’ve also been pleased with how the City’s Club KC and Mayor’s Night’s programs have reduced mobbing issues at our City’s entertainment districts. These are great examples of outside-the-box and non-police solutions to crime problems.

The Mayor also confronts the elephant in the room: to reduce Kansas City’s gun violence, we must do something to address the abundance of illegal guns. Police work very hard at this, but we face an uphill battle. State law prevents the City from “affecting or interfering with the ownership, purchase, use, possession, regulation of any weapon or bullets, regardless of size, type, intended use or purpose.” Even if police stop known violent criminals and find a gun in their vehicle, unless they are a convicted felon, it is not illegal for them to possess a gun. No permit is required to have a gun in a car.

The next time you ask, “What are you doing about gun violence?”, read over the Mayor’s blog post to get an idea of the holistic approach the City and our Department are taking.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Civil responsibility in anticipation of verdict

Closing arguments are taking place today in the trial of George Zimmerman, a Florida man accused of killing Trayvon Martin. A jury soon will decide Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence. The racially charged case has brought up a lot of emotions across the nation, and some speculate the verdict could cause civil unrest.

Kansas City is largely a community of good, law-abiding people, and we are confident people will react to the verdict as responsible citizens and respect the criminal justice process, just as we do. However, you can absolutely agree or disagree with whatever the jury decides and make your thoughts known. The U.S. Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to voice their opinion and peaceably assemble, and we will support everyone’s right to do so. But disagreement with any verdict in the judicial process does not give anyone the right to ignore the law and compromise the safety of others or harm their property.

I ask all members of the community to respect each other. Respect one’s right to voice an opinion, but also respect another’s right to be safe. I also ask everyone to work together to quell any disturbances that may arise. I know the Zimmerman case is an emotional topic, but we can’t let emotions bring discredit to Kansas City. Everyone is responsible for keeping their behavior in check, and if you see someone who isn't, try to help them redirect their feelings in an appropriate way. If that doesn’t work, call us.

We look forward to working with our supportive community during this time and every other day. You can be confident police are prepared for whatever might happen. We have trained for critical incidents for my entire 28-year career here at KCPD. Every officer receives critical incident response training in the Police Academy, and that training is updated and re-emphasized periodically. We also have officers who specialize in responding to these incidents. We always have the ability to re-allocate resources to meet any needs the community presents to us. Little that we do in response to these incidents is reactionary. Rather, we proactively plan for and train for all kinds of situations, including civil unrest.

But police are just a small part of what it takes to keep our city peaceful. We need everyone’s help to keep tensions down when emotions run high. Not only could this prevent civil unrest when a verdict comes down in the Zimmerman case, it also could prevent the majority of our shootings and homicides. The police are ready to appropriately respond to whatever comes our way, and I am confident the people of Kansas City are, as well.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Gunshot detection success gaining national attention

The success of ShotSpotter technology in Kansas City has gained a little national attention. USA Today highlighted in their "State by State" section our press conference last week and our desire to expand the system into other parts of the city.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

ShotSpotter is working, but community engagement is still key

Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and I announced the success achieved with the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system. ShotSpotter went live in Kansas City on Oct. 1, 2012. The system covers 3.5 square miles in the city’s urban core and alerts police to gunfire. You can learn more about how it works here.

Police have been dispatched to 977 shots fired alerts through the system in the last eight months. These have led officers to recover 342 shell casings, 96 live rounds and 13 firearms. They’ve made six felony arrests through ShotSpotter, three of which resulted in federal charges for felons in possession of firearms. And since ShotSpotter’s implementation, aggravated assaults with firearms have decreased by 24.6 percent in the covered areas.

One example of a ShotSpotter success story happened in December 2012. Officers responded to the area where ShotSpotter indicated a gun had been fired. They found a man suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. Later investigation revealed the victim had been inside a stolen vehicle with another man who had shot him and fled. Police promptly located the vehicle and suspect. They found the firearm used in the shooting inside the car, as well as another stolen gun. The suspect gave a full confession and was charged with aggravated assault and armed criminal action. He was jailed in lieu of a $100,000 bond.

The detectives who worked that case believe that without ShotSpotter, police never would have been contacted. Because of the vehicle theft, they don’t think the victim would have reported being shot. But because of ShotSpotter, a man who tried to kill someone is off the street and being held accountable for his actions.

Another success story comes from an accumulation of gunfire data that ShotSpotter picked up on and KCPD intelligence analysts gathered. The system detected gunshots coming from the same address on multiple occasions. Police were able to use that data to obtain a search warrant for the house. Inside they found two illegally possessed firearms and the drug PCP. They were able to take suspects into custody.

But the real success of the ShotSpotter system isn’t in the statistics. It’s in the relationships it is helping to build. Sadly, hearing frequent gunfire has become a way of life in some neighborhoods. People didn’t report it because they were scared or felt police wouldn’t do anything about it. Now they see that we are doing something about it, and we are here to make their block safe again. When we show up at these shots fired calls now, people come out of their homes to ask us what is going on. They are learning that we will be there and they can talk to us. If police had been better engaged with the community over the years, we wouldn’t need ShotSpotter. We are working to repair that disconnect and engage the public once again.

We are not surprised by the effectiveness of ShotSpotter. The system was placed in the right areas of the city – those where violence had become too common of an occurrence. (We will not reveal where the system is located so we can stay several steps ahead of those who engage in criminal activity.) Given additional funding, we would love to expand the system in other areas.

But technology and police won’t solve everything. It’s up to community members to say they refuse to tolerate violence in their neighborhood.

And as we approach Independence Day, I wanted to let you know the ShotSpotter system can differentiate between fireworks and gunfire. Both are illegal in Kansas City. Police will be responding to these calls on the Fourth of July and every other day. And with ShotSpotter, the gunshot calls that might otherwise have gotten lost in fireworks noise will be clear, and police will respond to them promptly.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.