Kansas City is on pace to shatter its homicide record this year, with 146 murders recorded so far. Mayor Quinton Lucas earlier this week introduced another new crime prevention initiative directed at reducing the violence after previous attempts have failed.
“This is a starting point, not a final plan,” he told a local radio station. “That’s intentional. We need and want the community to provide input.”
The Reform Project KC comprises four areas — prevention, intervention, enforcement and administrative reform — connecting police, the prosecutor’s office, the health department and the community. “We recognize that we can no longer operate in silos and that we’re taking this conversation directly to the community,” Lucas said.
Dr. Marvia Jones, violence prevention and policy manager at the Kansas City Health Department, said the factors that lead someone to pick up a gun at age 15 begin when they are far younger.
“Right now, in homes not too far from where we stand today and throughout the city, there’s a 5-year-old growing up in a home where the adults in his life are unemployed or making just enough to keep a shelter over their heads,” she said.
Intervention efforts will target those most at risk of getting involved in violent crime and connect them with drug rehabilitation, mental health services and housing. It also involves providing those services to people who are incarcerated.
The goal of enforcement is simple: solve more homicides. But the agencies in charge of that — the police department and the county prosecutor — have had a rocky relationship. Police Chief Rick Smith said they are working to send more social workers and advocates to crime scenes, connecting residents looking for solutions to services and programs.
As part of the community engagement process, city leaders will begin conducting neighborhood walks in high-crime areas to hear directly from residents about what they need from the city — whether that includes more parks, better sidewalks or better housing.
Lucas said he plans to have steering committees to address each of the four pillars in place by January.
The only good news for Kansas City recently were the 500 arrests by federal agents. The agents were part of President Trump’s Justice Department effort Operation Legend, named for a young boy who was shot and killed. The program is getting high marks across the country for taking violent criminals off the street and assisting police departments already struggling by shrinking local budgets demanded by the Black Lives Matter movement.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice