By LESLIE COLLINS
April 10, 2013
As Kansas City No Violence Alliance (NoVA) continues to gain momentum, Tammy Dickinson is continuing to pledge her support.
Dickinson, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, first learned about the anti-violence initiative while working in the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office. For 15 years, she worked in the office as chief trial assistant and assistant prosecutor and said she knows how violent crime affects the city and the county.
“The violent crime rate in Kansas City is just astronomical and it’s a quality of life situation,” Dickinson told Northeast News. “People need to be able to go to school, go to the mall and drive down the street and not be in fear of their lives.”
In 2012, Kansas City tallied 108 homicides and of those, 79 involved handguns. During the first six months of 2012, the Kansas City Police Department recorded 1,044 aggravated assaults.
Launched in May of 2012, KC NoVA aims to target the most violent criminals in Kansas City and their associates. The pyramid approach categorizes individuals into Tier I and Tier II levels. Tier I criminals, considered the most dangerous, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. For Tier II individuals, those who associate with violent criminals, the goal is to offer social services and help them turn away from a destructive path.
Dickinson said she has a list of the targeted NoVA offenders and her office is loosening the guidelines for accepting federal cases. Both city, state and federal entities are working together, she said.
“We’ve got to partner with everybody to make a dent, to do the best we absolutely can to clean up the streets,” she said. “It’s a quality of life issue for us and we’re not going to sit back on 9th Street and watch it all go by…
“We will accept any case if we can make it under federal laws and under federal jurisdiction under any NoVA target.”
In support of NoVA, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri adopted the motto: “If we can make it, we’re going to take it.”
Street gangs and violent offenders fear federal prosecution because of mandatory minimum sentencing and tougher penalties, she said.
“They know those sentences are without parole and they’re going to do the time,” Dickinson said. “It’s not a question of if you’re going to get time in the federal system, it’s a question of how much.”
Dickinson said her office is facing sequestration and furloughs and is working to minimize the impact.
“It has a very negative impact on our office as well as every single department of justice employee across the country,” she said. “We are going to do everything we can to tighten our belts.”
In the next few months, 166 employees in her office will be required to take up to 14 furlough days.
“Criminals don’t know furloughs, sequestration; they don’t understand budget cuts and they don’t stop,” she said. “It’s (furloughs and budget cuts) not going to be without pain. It will be very painful, but I have a very dedicated staff of outstanding attorneys who are committed to their work.”
Budget cuts won’t stop her office’s dedication to NoVA, she added.
“I’ve been around here awhile and I’ve never seen this cooperation before,” City Council member John Sharp said. “All of us are looking forward to results. This is such a great step forward.”
KC NoVA has already made strides. In February, KC NoVA launched Operation Clean Sweep, an initiative targeted at criminal social networks as opposed to geographical areas. The two-day sweep focused on a small social network comprised of 360 individuals carrying significant influence in Historic Northeast. Among the group were homicide suspects, those on probation or parole, prostitutes, juveniles, drug dealers, among others. Thanks to the sweeps, police officers arrested several homicide suspects, cleared 49 warrants, filed 15 new charges and recovered 4.5 grams of cocaine, 200 pills and 224 grams of marijuana.
Soon, KC NoVA will announce other successes as a result of federal agency involvement, but Dickinson said she couldn’t provide a timeline.
“It’s a great initiative,” Dickinson said of KC NoVA. “The level of cooperation between all of the state, federal and local law enforcement is going to make a difference.”