Tuesday, February 9, 2016

KC NoVA continues to make impact on violent crime

Because our homicide statistics returned to “normal” in 2015 after a 42-year low in 2014, many have said that whatever we’re doing must not be working. There were 110 people killed in Kansas City last year. While we couldn’t possibly have prevented every one of them, we have worked diligently to stop those who are most likely to be victims and suspects of crimes through our Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA), among other initiatives.

You can’t prove a negative, so it’s impossible to say how many homicides KC NoVA has prevented. Suffice it to say, I wholeheartedly believe there would have been much more violence the past year without NoVA’s work.

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. Since January 1, 2014, they have identified 57 criminal networks with 1,239 members. These offenders have been identified as being 100 times more likely to be a murder victim than the average Kansas City resident.

KC NoVA targets the most violent offenders – those at the epicenters of these criminal networks – for aggressive prosecution. Consider some of these arrest statistics over the past two years:

Felons in possession of firearms: 31
Other federal firearm arrests: 15
Federal warrant arrests: 17
State warrant arrests: 140
City warrant arrests: 739
Investigative arrests: 214
Parole absconders: 1,354 (NoVA in partnership with other KCPD elements and Missouri Probation and Parole)

KC NoVA officers have checked 2,199 residences, 533 vehicles, 249 pedestrians and 16 businesses. They also have conducted 11 “call-in” events attended by 241 people who have been identified as a member of a criminal network. These call-ins let attendees know the gravity of their crimes and that the full force of law enforcement and prosecution will be on the members of their group if a violent crime takes place.

Just in 2015, members of KC NoVA have sought to interrupt the cycle of violence even more. Thirty-five times since the beginning of last year, KC NoVA members met with the victim of a violent act (if he or she is living) and that person’s associates (friends, family members and whoever else might have influence on them) immediately following a violent act – usually a shooting or homicide. The goal is to prevent retaliatory violence.

Also beginning last year, a customized team of people have been conducting “mini call-ins” at the homes of individuals at risk for violence. These are typically people who police know will not attend a call-in event or have already refused to come. The notification teams can include community members, KCPD officers, a prosecutor, clergy and a member of Mothers in Charge.

Some of the people at greatest risk for committing or becoming victims of violent crime are those who already have committed violent crime. That’s why KC NoVA began extra efforts in 2015 to monitor prisoners who get out on parole or probation. Police and other NoVA partners are now meeting with individuals with a history of violent behavior before they are released from prison and back onto the streets of Kansas City, Mo. This has taken place 37 times in the past year. It’s also like a “mini call-in,” informing the individual that he or she will be closely monitored by law enforcement. It’s also a chance to offer social services to help them reintegrate into society.

KC NoVa is essentially a two-part initiative: enforcement and social services. 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. KC NoVA’s Social Services component has assessed 337 people for services. Presently, 103 of them are getting help. In partnership with numerous community resources, KC NoVA has provided them with substance abuse treatment, employment assistance, housing services, anger management courses, legal support, clothing, insurance and childcare assistance and mental health treatment. Many clients cannot read or write and have received literacy and education assistance, as well. All clients who get assistance also are now required to complete a conflict resolution course. A majority of the homicides in Kansas City are the result of poor conflict resolution skills.

I am confident that KC NoVA’s work – as well as that of every other member of this police department – is making a difference. The homicide numbers do not tell the full story. Also keep in mind that Kansas City has experienced much of what the rest of the country did last year. The FBI released their crime report a few weeks ago that covered the first half of 2015. Murders were up 6.2 percent nationwide between January and June 2015. Overall violent crime was up 1.7 percent. We were fortunate not to experience the huge spike other cities did. According to the FBI, Kansas City had 36 homicides in the first six months of last year. During that same time, St. Louis had 92, Baltimore had 144 and Milwaukee had 75.

While I am certain we are working very hard to reduce violence in Kansas City, I must again remind everyone that there is only so much police can do. We need the help of everyone in the community to make a difference. From clean-ups in blighted areas of town to mentoring to parenting to reduced access to guns for those who shouldn’t have them – all these things could go a long way to ending senseless violence in our community.

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