Friday, October 18, 2013

New unit is devoted to helping violent crime victims

I'm excited about our new Victim Assistance Unit and how it's reaching out to victims of violent crime. It was one of my first priorities. Within three days of my appointment to Chief, I picked a director who could put the Victim Assistance Unit together. Check out this story about the Unit from our Informant newsletter:

Often before a detective is even assigned to an aggravated assault case, a victim assistance specialist in the new Victim Assistance Unit already has reached out to the victim.

The new unit is part of the Community Support Division and went live on Sept. 9. It is staffed by three sworn officers and a civilian who was a former officer and crime scene technician. But they don’t wear uniforms.
“We don’t say anything about being police officers or detectives (when talking to victims),” Specialist Detective Jerry Grubb said. “We just tell them we’re victim assistance specialists.”

Community Support Division Manager Doug Weishar said every day, the specialists are assigned whatever aggravated assault cases took place the night before. Oftentimes, their cases haven’t even been assigned to a detective yet. The victim assistance specialists’ job is to contact the victims and offer them three things:

1.)    Information on victim assistance, such as what their rights are by state statute and information on victim compensation.
2.)    Answers to any questions they have about the criminal justice system and where their case is in it.
3.)    Assistance with any needs regarding injuries or losses they sustained. The Victim Assistance Unit has partnered with about 30 organizations throughout the City that offer everything from trauma counseling to shelter.

Weishar said an ultimate goal of the unit is to have an enhanced response to every violent crime victim in Kansas City, which would be about 10,000 to 11,000 people per year. Victim Advocate Jennifer Miller continues her work with the families of homicide victims, and the Victim Assistance Unit is starting their work with aggravated assault victims. They will expand to other violent crime victims soon.

Weishar said the victim assistance specialists are not charged with convincing victims to prosecute their cases.

“Empathy and compassion are a good deal of what we do,” he said. “Having said that, we realize some of them are suspects themselves. We hope that by showing that kind of attention to them, we can subtly persuade them to cooperate where they may not have before.”

Victim Assistance Specialist Officer Kevin White said he has gone to hospitals to reach out to injured victims and their families. He follows up with them to see how they’re recovering. Several of the people he’s contacted have been surprised to hear from him.

“People on the phone are just shocked to hear the police department call them to see how they’re doing,” Officer White said. “They didn’t expect those phone calls.”

Victims already have taken advantage of services like trauma and spiritual counseling, bilingual assistance and housing help.

“We don’t just give them a phone number to call,” Weishar said. “We actually contact those community resources ourselves and find one that agrees to assist them. Then we hand (the victims) off to them.”
With the help of the department’s Information Technology staff, the victim assistance specialists can see what detectives have done on the cases, and detectives can see what contact the specialists have had with victims. But the specialists are careful not to get into the investigative arena. Weishar said this is a different layer, and the specialists want to develop trust with the victims.

Weishar said he eventually hopes to have trained volunteers and college interns as part of the unit, enabling them to assist as many violent crime victims as possible.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Come tell us what you think Saturday

I invite all community members to come share their concerns, thoughts and ideas with me and police department leaders tomorrow morning.

The Kansas City Missouri Police Department is hosting an open forum from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 5 at the Mohart Multipurpose Center, 3200 Wayne Ave. Police commanders and community interaction officers will be in attendance, as will a representative from the Office of Community Complaints and the leaders of several city departments. These department and city leaders will sit in the audience while you share your thoughts.

We will not be there to talk at you. We will be there to listen to you.

For the first hour and 45 minutes, police and city representatives will sit in the audience listening to what you have to say. At 10:45 a.m., police commanders will meet one-on-one with you. If you have a specific public safety problem you’d like to see addressed, we will ask you to sign a community contract. This contract will outline the mutually agreed upon action steps to be taken by you and police to address the issue and will ensure both parties follow up on these actions. The follow-up is key.

I really hope you can make it out tomorrow morning. The police are here to serve you, and we need your input to be successful.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

New phase of Law Enforcement Resource Center is implemented

This week marks a big shift in how the Kansas City Missouri Police Department analyzes, responds to and prevents crime. October 3 will be the implementation of Phase II of our Law Enforcement Resource Center. (To get a background on the Law Enforcement Resource Center [LERC], check out this article in our Informant newsletter.)

For years we have been reacting to crime. The LERC takes us from reacting to interrupting crime. That is where we are now, primarily in relation to property crimes. The next goal is to forecast crime.

Phase I of the LERC  was completed in March of this year. That introduced the Real Time Crime Center and Crime Analysis Center. As soon as staffing becomes available, the Real Time Crime Center will become a 24/7/365 operation. Right now, it is staffed from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. The jobs of the detectives in this center are to keep an eye on calls officers on the street are responding to and provide as much information as they can about the people and locations officers are encountering. They also will take intelligence that patrol officers gather from their relationships with community members and see how it relates to unsolved crimes or crimes being planned. Because of the Real Time Crime Center, officers and detectives don’t have to spend nearly the time at their car computers or desks looking up information. The Center will do that for them. The goal to get that information back to officers and detectives is less than two minutes. The officers and detectives, then, can be out working the streets, which is where they have the most impact.

The Crime Analysis Center brought together the analysts from our six patrol divisions into one central location for the first time in memory. We have given them training and technology to track property crime patterns across the metropolitan area. This has led to major breakthroughs that would not have been possible before. We are catching the bad guys and stopping them from committing more crimes. This does not just affect property crimes. Many criminals are involved in both property and violent crimes.

Now Phase II is coming. This will bring an administrative unit and the Perpetrator Information Center together. As LERC commander Major Mike Corwin likes to say, the crime analysts are the “what.” The Perpetrator Information Center is the “who” and “why.” They gather intelligence on violent criminals to link them to the crimes they’ve committed and each other. Their input into our crime analysis software development is invaluable.

Having all of these resources under one roof is unprecedented, here and across the nation. We are leading the country in developing proprietary intelligence software that harvests data from multiple law enforcement sources, analyzes it and gets it back out to those who need it at a rapid rate. We are breaking down the silos of information that used to exist, and Kansas City will be safer for it.

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