By LESLIE COLLINS
January 30, 2013
“It’s been a bloody 24 hours in Kansas City,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker said during a Jan. 30 press conference.
Four people were murdered during the past 24 hours and about an hour before the press conference, Kansas City police were investigating another double homicide.
Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté said the city is sending a clear message to criminals that violence won’t be tolerated in Kansas City.
For decades, high homicide rates have plagued Kansas City, but officials are taking a new approach to addressing violent crime, Kansas City Mayor Sly James said.
The program is called Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA) and this week, KCPD kicked off the program in a major way, targeting a small criminal social network that carries significant influence in the Historic Northeast area. KCPD, along with FBI agents, conducted Operation Clean Sweep Jan. 29 and 30 which focused on 360 individuals and included homicide suspects, those on probation or parole, prostitutes, juveniles and drug dealers. NoVA created the social networking map using information gathered from the criminal justice system.
Police arrested 17 individuals, some of whom were suspects in homicide cases. In addition, police cleared 49 warrants, filed 15 new charges and recovered 4.5 grams of cocaine, 200 pills and 224 grams of marijuana.
Forté said he agreed with the mayor that the violence in Kansas City is out of control and “it’s time to do something about it.”
One of the goals of NoVA is to offer social services to at-risk individuals within the social network to deter them from committing more serious crimes. NoVA hired a master social worker, who will assist the individuals with job skills training, transportation assistance, GED training, among others. The hope is that those individuals will then positively influence others in their social network. NoVA officials will meet with individuals associated with the sweep in the near future and are continuing to discuss the best way to encourage the at-risk individuals to take advantage of the social services. Faith-based and community organizations will also assist in positively influencing individuals.
Forté stressed that NoVA is not like a “get rich quick scheme.” Results won’t happen overnight, he said. However, he said, “If we do nothing, we get nothing.”
Last year, Kansas City tallied 108 homicides; NoVA wants to drop that number to 80 within two years.
One aspect that sets NoVA apart from past programs is the “true collaboration” among a variety of entities, Peters-Baker said.
Those entities include KCPD, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, the City of Kansas City Mayor’s Office, the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the U.S. Attorney and others.
U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said she’s pledging her support and is dedicated to helping Kansas City curb its violence block by city block, one social group at a time, one neighborhood at a time.
The collaborated efforts will make a “meaningful difference” in Kansas City, Dickinson said.
James added that they want to help more individuals break away from the cycle of violence rather than just sending them to jail. However, it’s a tough love approach and individuals can decide to change or go to jail, he said.
“We’re going to wage a long war against slow motion mass murder that occurs in this city each year,” James said.
Look for a more in-depth story in this week’s print edition of Northeast News.