Kansas City is experiencing one of the highest homicide rates in recent years. The city has seen 101 homicides so far this year, as of July 13, 2020. This is compared to 71 in the same time period in 2019.
“That represents a 39% increase over last year,” Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) Deputy Chief Mark Francisco said at the Board of Police Commissioners meeting on July 7. “There were 61 homicides in the same time frame for 2018. Seventy-three in 2017 and 53 in 2016.”
This June, the city had 72 shooting victims, compared to 65 in June 2019. The first week of July had an additional 12 bullet-to-skin shootings, Fransisco said.
After a violent start to Independence Day weekend in which two officers and a bus driver were shot within hours of each other on Thursday, July 2, Deputy Chief Karl Oakman thanked officers for their work.
“These men and women still went out there this weekend, which was a busy weekend, and continued to do their jobs, and they continue to protect this city, seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Oakman said.
There have been 250 drive-by shootings so far this year, compared to 228 in 2019, 49 of those occurring in June, compared to 41 in June 2019.
Violent crime is up 2% from 2019, and it rose a staggering 57% from April to May 2020.
“A lot of that due to some of the reopening of the city versus April when most everything was shut down,” Oakman said. “The two important factors of the increase are homicides and [aggravated] assaults.”
While violent crimes and homicides are happening throughout the city, homicides have been disproportionately concentrated in the East Patrol zone.
East Patrol has approximately 43% of the homicides so far this year. Last year at this time they had 38%, just above Metro Patrol’s 34%. This year the next highest divisions, Central and Metro, have a combined total of 34%.
From July to December 2019, crime in the Northeast dropped over 50%. East Patrol Commander, Major Doug Niemeier credits this to East Patrol reallocating manpower and resources to the Northeast.
“Of course, East Patrol is one of the larger divisions, it’s almost 46 square miles, and I had a problem in the 64130 zip code, which we’ve always had problems in, and I took the same project plan that I had for all of Northeast and I moved that down to the 64130 zip code,” Niemeier said.Niemeier told Northeast community groups at the time that the strategy had worked here, and it was then implemented in a different area.
So far this year, that zip code has only had three homicides, where it was once the leader.
“Just prior to this, and beginning two weeks ago, we have now reimplemented the same plan that we had before that caused all the crime to go down back in Northeast,” Niemeier said. “With that being said, it comes down to how many officers I have and where they’re placed, and how visible they are.”
Although violent crime in Kansas City has been trending down, homicide rates are up both in Kansas City and nationwide, Niemeier said.
“Everybody thought with the [COVID-19] that it would go down, but it did just the opposite,” Niemeier said. “I don’t know if that’s because more people are at home, more people are together, that’s caused that.”
Ninety-seven of the city’s 101 homicides so far this year have involved a firearm.
KCPD recovered 180 firearms in June 2020, compared to 160 in June 2019. This year alone, 1,255 firearms have been recovered, compared to 1,149 by this time last year.
“People need to realize, too, that we have some of the most liberal gun laws in America here,” Niemeier said. “It’s not illegal to carry a firearm unless you are a felon or you have an ex parte order against you, there’s only a few things that you can’t carry a firearm.”
Niemeier said KCPD already works with federal partners like the ATF and FBI working in the narcotics and vice units, gun squad and illegal firearms squad.
Contributing factors to the 101 homicides in Kansas City so far this year include 26 arguments, 1 carelessness, 2 defense, 4 domestic violence, 8 robbery, 4 marijuana, 7 other drugs, 4 other causes, and 46 unknown. Aside from firearms, other means of attack included asphyxiation, knives, vehicles, blunt force trauma by object, and two remain unknown.
Three of the victims were 16 or younger, 28 were between the ages of 17 and 24, 29 were between the ages of 25 and 34, 25 were 45 or older, and one was unknown. One suspect was 16 or younger, 26 were between the ages of 17 and 24, 28 were between 25 and 34, 10 were between 35 and 44, 8 were 45 or older, and 47 were of unknown age.
While officers throughout the city combat crime, they are also battling a pandemic. East Patrol Station has taken COVID-19 very seriously and has been lucky enough to have zero positive cases so far. The station has quarantined some officers out of precaution.
“I can’t really afford to lose anybody, and if you lose one, you’re going to lose a whole group because they’re all going to be quarantined,” Niemeier said.
The Department’s Badges for Basics program, which provides hygiene items to those in need, had been suspended due to COVID-19 and the need to prevent the department from being infected.
“We’re going to try to get back out and have more of those events out in the public,” Niemeier said. “There’s a two or three month window here where we had to protect our people, as well. Not just citizens protecting themselves, but I had to protect my employees. The chief had to protect an entire department so that we don’t have the pandemic just run through a station. It would be horrible.”
Data taken from Daily Homicide Analysis, July 10, 2020, available at kcpd.org.