Kansas City Mayor Sly James asked Police Chief Darryl Forté on Thursday to research creative ways to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
He made the request during a City Council discussion of Forté’s recent efforts to fight violent crime and Forté’s response to The Star’s recent series on nonfatal shootings.
The Star’s analysis found that 60 percent of victims wounded by gunfire last year did not help police pursue their shooters. Detectives then shut down the investigations, and prosecutors didn’t file charges.
Forté told council members he thought The Star’s articles were accurate and that they prompted the department to reflect on its practices.
“We have to do a better job communicating the prosecution process,” to victims, Forté told the council.
He outlined several changes he would like to implement, including asking shooting victims for more contact information so detectives can reconnect with more victims. Last year, detectives shut down 67 shooting cases after they couldn’t locate victims for follow-up, The Star found.
Forté also wants patrol officers to help locate hard-to-find, seriously-injured shooting victims from recent incidents as well as previous shooting cases that had been shut down.
Meanwhile, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay this week twice sent messages on Twitter about The Star’s project. He attached a link to a Star editorial calling for more aggressive policing and prosecution in nonfatal shootings, then wrote: “KC Star is right on this.”
He later tweeted: “True in KC and true in STL. Police and prosecutors need strategies to prosecute crimes in which victims/witnesses won’t cooperate.”
James agreed with Slay and said The Star had delved into an important topic.
“It was interesting information,” he said. “Information I didn’t have. Information I didn’t know about.”
Other council members praised the project as insightful. Councilman John Sharp said he didn’t think there was anything authorities could do about nonfatal shootings when victims declined to cooperate, but The Star’s project showed cases still could be filed with other evidence and witnesses.
James said he fully supports efforts by “the professionals,” Forté and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, to build better relationships with the community. Finding ways to reduce guns carried by criminals in Kansas City could help reduce violent crime, he added, but efforts thus far have been hampered by Missouri’s laws, which allow motorists older than 20-years old to have concealed handguns in their vehicles. All motorists age 17 and older can have handguns in vehicles as long as they aren’t concealed.
“Now we don’t have anything that has a deterrent effect,” he said.
Forté said he would research new ideas and push for gun owners to record serial numbers of their weapons in case they are stolen. He said he would favor an ordinance mandating the reporting of stolen guns.