In early January, Time magazine took note of a national trend in 2013: “Murders in U.S. cities reach record lows again.” Residents in New York City, Chicago, Detroit and other cities were celebrating their reduced homicide rates.
But Kansas Citians couldn’t join in, because our city’s murder rate last year remained stubbornly high — among the worst of America’s major cities.
Police reported 106 homicides for 2013, down just three from 2012, while recording the sixth straight year of more than 100 killings. One month into 2014, eight persons already have died violently.
Kansas City’s homicide rate is now more than five times higher than New York’s. And while officials here often note that local homicides have fallen since an early 1990s peak, the annual rate is down only 30 percent. Other cities have plummeted far more, including an 85 percent decline in New York.
This community must find the will and the ways to stop this madness and create a safer city with more stable neighborhoods, especially in the urban core.
We’re fully aware there’s no magic formula. But many other cities have dramatically reduced their violent crime rates in recent years.
The Star plans to spend 2014 spotlighting the city’s homicide problem — and efforts to stanch the bleeding. We believe the crisis demands a sense of urgency. Lowering crime should be at the top of every political and civic agenda.
For some, that’s already the case. The Kansas City No Violence Alliance — an effort involving police, prosecutors, criminal science experts and community groups — shows strong potential, and so do some other policing efforts. But law enforcement alone can’t end the epidemic of violence that has destroyed families and neighborhoods here. Every responsible adult has a role to play.
As one attempt to keep the problem in the public eye, we will report in a monthly editorial about the homicides that have taken place over that time. The month just ended provided a vivid reminder of what the community is up against.
The killing began on New Year’s Day, when Jose Medellin was fatally shot in an apartment close to Independence. Two men were spotted fleeing the scene. No one has been arrested.
Three days later, Mark Thomas, a grandfather and city worker from Liberty, was brutally murdered and abandoned in the Northland, allegedly by two young acquaintances after he offered them a ride. Thomas, 58, was an atypical victim; he was not known to engage in risky activities.
Violence claimed the life of Donald Donato, 21, who reportedly was shot while trying to steal a bag of marijuana. Darrin Duncan, 21, was found shot outside of a residence in the 2900 block of East 22nd Street. Deon Drew, 33, and Rollonn Gordon, 21, were gunned down in a car at an intersection. All young black men, they fit the most common profile of a homicide victim in Kansas City — killed by gunfire on the East Side.
Brandon Arledge, 24, was fatally shot during an argument outside of a downtown nightclub early last Sunday. At least several persons saw what happened, but as of Friday no suspects were in custody. That’s an all-too-typical scenario and one of the reasons Kansas City’s homicide numbers remain high. Arrests have been made in only two of January’s eight homicides.
Rondell E. Robinson, 41, was found dead Wednesday outside a home belonging to a former girlfriend in the 7000 block of Jackson Avenue.
If there is a conclusion to be drawn here, it is that too many Kansas Citians are choosing a lifestyle that involves guns, violence and criminal activities.
Changing that will require persuasion, law enforcement and wiser alternatives. It will require a lot of things, and there is no more time to lose.