Thursday, September 24, 2015

The status of 2015 homicides in Kansas City

Many media reports recently have given the impression that Kansas City’s homicide rate is much higher than normal. I’ve heard rumors that gangs or drugs are the cause. None of this is true. I’d like to clarify exactly what’s happening with murders in our city and shed some light on what we’re doing about them.

As of this writing, Kansas City, Missouri, has had 72 homicides in 2015. At this time last year, we had 57. Last year, we experienced the lowest number of homicides in 42 years. It is discouraging we have more so far this year, but it still remains below where we have been in almost any prior year in the last four decades. And with the exception of homicides and aggravated assaults (assaults with a weapon), every other category of crime defined by the FBI is down in Kansas City so far this year. As of August 1, total crimes were down by 5 percent.

Kansas City continues to avoid the deadly outbreaks of violence that have plagued other cities of our size. I posted about this earlier this summer. As of Sept. 22, for example, St. Louis has 148 homicides – more than twice those in Kansas City (and our population is greater by about 150,000).

The murders here aren’t the result of some gang or drug war. More often than not, they occur between people who get angry with each other and choose to settle their conflict with a firearm. (Sixty people have been murdered by firearms in Kansas City so far this year.) Of the 51 homicide cases so far in which detectives have determined a motive, 22 of them were the result of an argument. Domestic and family violence accounts for the second-highest number of homicides by motive, with 16. And it’s not just among intimate partners. We’ve had cases of an uncle killing his nephew, a step-son killing his step-father, and a woman’s boyfriend killing her toddler son while he babysat him. Cases like that are incredibly sad and incredibly difficult to prevent.

We’re taking many steps to reduce homicides. I outlined some of those in this post. Those efforts include everything from lethality assessments to prevent intimate partner violence by getting victims to safety, to the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, to the Police Athletic League.

But as I’ve said many times, police are only part of the solution. We can’t be at every family gathering at which an argument breaks out and someone pulls out a gun. We can and have identified who is most likely to commit acts of violence and then targeted them for either aggressive prosecution or social services through Kansas City NoVA. But we can’t be everywhere or know everything. We can’t prevent everyone who shouldn’t have a firearm from having one.

Fortunately, the community has been working alongside us like never before. We will continue to build and nurture relationships in hopes of establishing trust so members of our community feel encouraged to contact us before a crime occurs.

And after crimes occur, we’ve seen witnesses step up and give vital information to solve many of our most recent killings. Just this weekend, more than a dozen people came forward in a homicide that took place in a crowded area. In years past, witnesses in that situation tended to just scatter and never speak with police. Things are very different now, and I am very grateful for this increased cooperation. A community full of people who make it known that violence will not be tolerated – and that the irresponsible use of firearms will not be tolerated – is ultimately what will reduce the number of homicide victims in Kansas City. The Kansas City Missouri Police Department is ready and willing to assist in that endeavor.