Barbara Shelly

Mayor Sly James: Get the murder numbers down

Updated: 2014-02-12T00:07:03Z

By Barbara Shelly

The Kansas City Star

Kansas City Mayor Sly James seems to be losing patience.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners, he grilled Police Chief Darryl Forté about the progress of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, the collaboration of police, county and federal prosecutors, criminologists and community groups that is working to decrease violent crimes.

Forté said he thought the initiative was beginning to show results, and he said its work may be part of the reason Kansas City recorded only half as many murders in January this year as in 2013, when the year opened up with 16 homicides.

James countered that 2011 saw an even slower start for murders than this year, but Kansas City finished that year with an unacceptable count of 114 homicides.

“At this stage there has to be a sense of urgency in terms of trying to do something about homicides in Kansas City,” he said.

The mayor said he was “fully committed to NOVA (the No Violence Alliance).” Modeled after successful initiatives in other cities, the program identifies circles of people who are likely to become involved in crime, and lets them know they are in for heightened police scrutiny but that life-altering services are also available to them.

But James indicated he’d like to see would-be criminals get the message sooner rather than later.

“I’m not saying we should go crazy but there’s a lot of bad guys running around,” he said. “I’d like to see them feel a little more uncomfortable.”

Forté responded that a short trip to jail isn’t always much of a deterrent, and that the task of the No Violence Alliance is to gain enough leverage to take meaningful action against violent criminals. “Without that trust in the community you’re not going to be able to do anything,” he said.

Said James: “The numbers have to come down.”

Forté: “We’ll do everything we can do.”

Forté seemed to be saying that urgency is meaningless unless backed up by strategy, while James was arguing that strategy is only as good as its results. Both are correct, but urgency often seems to be a missing element when it comes to lowering crime rates in Kansas City. James should keep up the pressure.

To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to bshelly@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/bshelly.

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