Heads usually turn when a phalanx of midnight blue police cars roll onto a city block.
But in some Kansas City neighborhoods on Friday, the occupants of those vehicles weren’t there to kick in doors or make arrests.
They came to deliver a message: No more violence.
The messengers were Kansas City’s top law enforcement officers, including Police Chief Darryl Forte, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson and the head of the ATF office in Kansas City, Marino Vidoli.
They targeted for face-to-face visits young men connected to local violent crime networks, which have been identified as part of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance. The men had ignored invitations to an earlier meeting at which the KC NoVa leaders had explained their new-found commitment to stamp out violent crime while offering help to those seeking to extricate themselves from the criminal lifestyle.
They men received information about social services, such as job training and substance abuse treatment, and were asked to tell their associates.
“We descended on them to spread our message,” Baker said. “If you or someone you associate with commits a violent crime, you can expect we’ll be back.”
And those return visits won’t be so congenial, authorities promised.
Dickinson, the U.S. attorney for western Missouri, called the KC NoVa effort a carrot-and-stick approach to combating violent crime.
That stick was swung big earlier Friday when Dickinson and the other leaders announced that 61 people had been charged with firearm and drug crimes after a 10-month undercover operation by Kansas City police and the ATF.
“This was the largest federal round-up ever conducted in this district as a result of a single investigation,” Dickinson said at a press conference announcing the operation.
As part of the investigation, officers also seized more than 200 firearms, some which had been stolen or linked to violent crimes.
“This operation targeted armed career criminals, violent felons who are carrying guns,” Dickinson said. “Every weapon taken out of the hands of a convicted felon represents lives saved and violent crimes prevented.”
After the morning press conference, the KC NoVa leaders went on their door-to-door visits. Afterward, they gathered at the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Center at 3700 Woodland Avenue to discuss the KC NoVa effort.
“It’s about community,” Forte said. “It’s going to take all of us to make this work.”