Thursday, January 1, 2015

KC 2014 homicides lowest since 1972

In 2014, Kansas City, Mo., experienced the lowest number of homicides it has since 1972. There have been 77 recorded homicides in 2014. Keep in mind, this number still could fluctuate. Investigators are waiting on a toxicology report for one person. If someone dies next year from an act of violence that took place this year, it will be added to 2014’s total. (This has happened before, up to 10 years later – someone is injured by a traumatic beating or shooting, and they must receive long-term care. They later pass away from injuries ultimately resulting from their assault.)

The chart below shows the verifiable UCR (Uniform Crime Report numbers submitted annually to the FBI) data we have on Kansas City homicides dating back to 1969. None of these numbers include officer-involved shootings. They are apples-to-apples comparisons. 

While we are pleased with the reductions in these numbers, we know there are still 77 families grieving. We will not give up working for justice for them. Nor will we rest in our efforts to prevent more violent crime from taking place. 

We have done many things to reduce violent crime, but many others have been part of making our city safer. Below are some of our initiatives: 

Our Victim Assistance Unit has gone a long way to ensure violent crime victims and their family members get the support they need and let the justice process take its course, reducing acts of retaliation. The detectives assigned to the unit have offered the victims crisis intervention, criminal justice information and referrals to community services for needs directly resulting from the crime such as shelter, food, clothing, grief and trauma counseling. By far, the most requested service from these victims has been trauma counseling. 

The Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA) deserves credit for reducing violent crime while beefing up community support for police. KC NoVA is a partnership begun in 2013 between our department, prosecutors, city government, social services and academia. This program has mapped out the relationships of everyone involved in a violent crime in our city over the last four years. It targets the most violent offenders – those at the epicenters of these criminal networks – for aggressive prosecution. For those less-violent offenders on the periphery of the mapped-out criminal networks, KC NoVA offers them a way out of a criminal lifestyle through support and social services. These offenders have been identified as being 100 times more likely to be a murder victim than the average Kansas City resident. KC NoVA’s Social Services component has assessed hundreds of clients. In partnership with numerous community resources, KC NoVA has provided them with substance abuse treatment, employment assistance, housing services, anger management courses and mental health treatment. Many clients cannot read or write and have received literacy and education assistance. 

The lack of literacy among those in criminal networks highlights the importance of early intervention, and it’s why I consider our Police Athletic League (PAL) an important crime-fighting tool. PAL offers youth the opportunity to interact with police officers in a positive setting while participating in cultural, mentoring and sports programs, with the main emphasis placed on academics. PAL is a non-profit organization staffed by Kansas City Police officers. The officers often get very involved in the lives of the children. They have done everything from driving them to a doctor’s appointment to helping their families get a new furnace when they could not afford one. The impact PAL has had on the lives of our urban-core children, many of whom live in poverty, cannot be overstated. Some of these children have gone on to college with academic and athletic scholarships, attaining careers they never would have thought possible. They also are a new generation of urban-core residents who trust police, and who have brought their family and friends to do so, as well. 

At the beginning of 2014, we also nearly doubled the amount of police personnel who work in hot spots, which are the small areas of the city where the most violent crime occurs. Every officer, detective and sergeant on this department not in an under-cover position now works six nights a year in a “hot spot.” Essentially, this means there is an extra squad of officers in East, Central and Metro Patrol divisions during their busiest nights every week. That’s more than 14,000 hours of additional police service for the residents of our city who are most affected by violent crime, and all of that came from existing resources. 

The fact remains that we cannot do what we do without the community. They are our eyes and ears. The more trust between police and residents, the safer our city is, period. We have amazing support from faith, business and neighborhood leaders. Our officers know that the vast majority of our residents are law-abiding folks who want the violence to stop as much as we do. We have forged some extremely beneficial partnerships with these residents, and they are making their communities safer.

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