It’s no stretch to say violent crime in Kansas City, particularly gun crime, is far too high. Reducing that has been my top priority as Chief, and it’s a top priority for just about everyone else in law enforcement here and our partners in the local and federal government. More than anyone else, I also know it’s a top priority for our community.
I wanted to outline some of the changes we’ve made – along with our partners – to work with the community to prevent and solve violent crime.
Reward increase for homicide tips
One of the things I’m most excited about is the increase in the anonymous reward amount for successful homicide tips from $10,000 to $25,000 through Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers. This increase will be accompanied by an extensive marketing campaign to ensure everyone knows about it, especially in the areas where the most violent crime occurs. The City of Kansas City is making a substantial investment in this effort.
An amount like $25,000 can be life-changing for some, and our hope is that it will lead to justice for the families of murder victims. Beyond that, we believe it will have a deterrent effect. Maybe bringing a gun to settle an argument isn’t such a good idea with an incentive of $25,000 motivating those with information to come forward.
The population of Omaha, Neb., is only slightly smaller than Kansas City’s. Omaha has been offering a $25,000 reward for successful homicide tips for some time. Their city had only 20 homicides last year. Kansas City had 138. Reward money may not be the only factor, but it does appear to impact violent crime in Omaha.
We have proof more reward money leads to more tips. The reward for successful anonymous tips for Kansas City, Mo., homicides increased from $2,000 to $5,000 in November 2017, and then went up to $10,000 in April 2018. Crime Stoppers saw a 26% increase in homicide tips in the year those changes occurred. And though the increased reward was only applicable to KCMO homicides, the tips for homicide cases went up across the board for the whole metro area. Those increased tips meant more than double the average amount of homicides cleared through anonymous tips in the greater Kansas City area.
Changing the focus of Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA)
After extensive evaluation, KC NoVA switched its enforcement strategy in May from targeting group-related violence to targeting individuals who are frequently involved in violent, gun-related crimes. This approach has seen great success in cities like Tampa, which has had a dramatic reduction in violent crime. Although the number of these violent offenders is low, they are responsible for the vast amount of our violent crime. Research from Tampa identified that 6% of violent offenders were responsible for 60% of violent crime.
As a reminder, KC NoVA is a partnership between KCPD, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, The Jackson County Prosecutor, FBI, ATF, the Mayor’s Office and Missouri Probation and Parole. NoVA accomplished its initial goal of reducing group-related violence. Since NoVA went into full effect in 2014, group-related homicides have dropped from 64% of all of our homicides to 37% of homicides. But homicides continue to be an issue in Kansas City, so we needed to adapt. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Safety Partnership spent 18 months with us evaluating NoVA and advising us on how we could move forward. The result is this new enforcement strategy that targets the trigger-pullers.
The social services component of KC NoVA will continue to help individuals find better futures that don’t involve crime or violence.
Stolen guns hurt everyone
We don’t just want to solve crimes after they happen. We want to prevent them from taking place. The Kansas City Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is working with Crime Stoppers and the City of Kansas City to offer a reward of $500 to $1,000 for information regarding stolen guns and straw purchasers (guns purchased on behalf of someone who cannot legally possess a firearm, usually a felon).
Guns are finding their way into crime through straw purchase, theft from vehicles, residential burglaries and thefts from gun shops. The ATF and the United States Attorney’s Office have an excellent record of bringing to justice those who break into area guns stores; however, those guns – like any stolen guns – hit the streets very quickly. We need the public’s help to find those guns, get them off of the streets BEFORE they can be used in crime, and hold those responsible for putting these guns on the streets, accountable.
We believe the $500 to $1,000 reward for information leading to stolen guns, straw purchasers, and others using firearms illegally will help achieve those goals.
Crime Gun Intelligence Center
Since last fall, the Crime Gun Intelligence Center has been working to analyze all gun crimes in Kansas City and link them forensically. The Center is a task force composed of KCPD detectives, officers from the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department and ATF agents all working in the same location. Just three years ago, it took nine to 12 months to get forensic analysis back on some gun crimes. Thanks to a federal grant that led to the Crime Gun Intelligence Center, this now happens in 24 to 48 hours.
The forensic linking is a tool to guide detectives in a direction. Detectives still have to put the pieces together. Firearms change hands quickly, especially after a gun crime occurs, but we have better tools than ever now to link guns to crimes, which leads us to linking people to crimes.
As I have previously mentioned, we added social workers at each of our six patrol division stations and doubled the number of Community Interaction Officers at each station. The intent of this was to address a lot of issues before they escalated into violence. The social workers link people to resources who might otherwise turn to crime to meet their needs. They are particularly focused on youth issues.
Community Interaction Officers address long-term neighborhood issues. They also work to strengthen communities through block watch programs, crime prevention through environmental design and building relationships with the police department. Empowered, connected, organized neighborhoods are the greatest crime deterrent our city has.
Because ultimately, we can have all the rewards and programs in the world, but little will change without the community’s involvement. You are the best crime-fighting resource we have, and we are honored to protect and serve alongside you.
Our city is tired of the senseless violence that has altered so many lives. Today, this police department and our many partners are sending a clear message that the illegal and senseless use of firearms must stop. As a city, we can do better and we must. Our message to our great city is that everyone has an opportunity to reduce violence. If you know violence is about to happen, speak out. If you know someone who has been involved in violent acts, speak out. We do not have to accept violence!