As a resident who is active in his East Side neighborhood, Forest Tyson is confident the more than $1.1 million in federal grants that Kansas City has recently been awarded will help eliminate blight, reduce crime and address a multitude of social ills that plague his part of Kansas City.
On Thursday, Kansas City police and the Jackson County prosecutor’s office announced they were recipients of separate grants given through the Smart Policing Initiative from the U.S. Department of Justice. Kansas City police will receive $700,000, and the prosecutor’s office will get more than $400,000. The two agencies will collaborate on various crime-solving and prevention efforts that target neighborhoods in the East Patrol Division.
“Instead of putting people in jail, you are reaching out at the other end,” said Tyson, who is vice president of the Oak Park Neighborhood Association. “You are actually sending people who have resources out to identify and talk to those who need the services.”
Authorities said this is the first time the Justice Department has awarded dual grants through its Office of Justice Programs to separate agencies in the same city.
“It is not an accident that Kansas City was chosen,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. “It is because we are recognized as a city that has already undertaken numerous efforts to reduce violent crime. It is good news, but it is something that we have been working towards for some time.
“It is going to produce some great results for us,” Baker said.
The grant money will enable Baker’s office to set up efforts similar to the Kansas City No Violence Alliance that target violent criminal groups. Residents will receive information about social services, such as job training and substance abuse treatment.
An assistant prosecutor and victim advocates will soon operate offices in the Police Department’s East Patrol division as a way to better connect with residents, faith-based organizations and community groups. Baker’s office was one of five prosecutors’ offices nationwide to earn the grant.
“Beyond the prosecution, we need to focus more on prevention, and the way we do that is peering with community,” Baker said.
The Kansas City Police Department was one of six agencies nationwide to receive the three-year grant. The money will be used to identify concentrated violent crime areas, or “micro hotspots,” that are no larger than two to three blocks. Neighborhood groups will learn how to self-police to enable them to weed out problem crime areas.
“If people are not comfortable coming out on their porch talking to their neighbor, then how will collective efficacy ever grow?” said Maj. Joseph McHale, commander of the East Patrol.
A portion of the police grant will be used to hire a social worker who specializes in intervention. The social worker will identify the people most likely to be involved in criminal activity in the micro hotspots, and then offer them social services.
Money from the grant also will fund research with the University of Missouri-Kansas City. And the money will help police conduct proactive and crime-prevention work in the designated micro hotspot neighborhoods.
The federal grant money has a dual purpose, said Ken Novak, who teaches criminal justice at UMKC.
“It is seed money to learn what works, what doesn’t and what is promising,” Novak said. “It identifies sites that can be role models for other cities.”