September 2, 2013

Missouri attorney general to host summit on urban crime in KC, St. Louis

The mayors and police chiefs of Kansas City and St. Louis — two cities that consistently rank in the top 10 nationally for violent crime — will join with prosecutors and other experts Sept. 16-19 for an Urban Crime Summit, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced Monday. The summit will examine best practices and develop a series of recommendations for “meaningful policy reforms,” Koster said.

Police chiefs, mayors and prosecutors from Kansas City and St. Louis — two cities that consistently rank in the top 10 nationally for violent crime — are joining forces this month for a four-day Urban Crime Summit, the Missouri attorney general announced Monday.

Chris Koster is convening the summit Sept. 16-19 to examine best practices and develop a series of recommendations for “meaningful policy reforms,” he said in a news release. The first two days of the summit will be held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The final two days will be in St. Louis.

“Violent crime affects every aspect of our community,” Koster said in the news release.

Raymond Kelly, New York City’s police commissioner, will open the summit, which will also feature William Bratton, who has served as police commissioner in New York and Boston and as Los Angeles’ police chief.

Other presenters will include Franklin Zimring, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley who has written extensively about crime, and Harold Pollack, a co-founder of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which uses insights from science to help government agencies develop new approaches to reduce violence.

Chicago recorded 500 homicides last year and has a reputation as a violent city. But a closer look at police statistics shows Kansas City is much worse when it comes to murders and shootings.

Adjusted for population, Chicago’s murder rate is 15.9 per 100,000 residents. Kansas City’s rate is 22.9, said police Capt. Joe McHale. Kansas City’s aggravated assault statistics also dwarf Chicago’s. Kansas City logs nearly 40 percent more aggravated assaults, McHale said.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Police Chief Darryl Forté will sit on the summit’s panel each day with Koster and St. Louis officials.

In a news release, James said he appreciated Koster’s attention to violent crime. “We will only be able to tackle violent crime when we make it a priority at every level of government,” James said.

Forté said reducing violent crime has been his “primary goal” since taking the city’s top law enforcement job. “I look forward to discussing violence prevention strategies with our cross-state colleagues and some of the most innovative thinkers in the field of law enforcement,” he said

The summit will represent the second statewide crime-fighting effort by Koster, who in 2010 led a task force on domestic violence to update laws that had not been comprehensively reviewed since the 1980s.

The summit also would fulfill a pledge Koster made last year after The Star published a two-day series documenting victim cooperation problems. The Star’s analysis found that 60 percent of shooting victims wounded in 2011 did not cooperate with Kansas City police, who then shut down the cases. Because so few cases were fully investigated, just 10 percent of shootings that year resulted in criminal charges.

Koster told The Star last year that he had already been planning a task force on violent crime because of continuing concerns about the homicide rates in Missouri’s two biggest cities. The Star’s series “added another chapter to that discussion,” he said last year.

“This summit is not simply another community meeting about a challenging topic,” Koster said in Monday’s news release. “For four days, we will explore solutions to the heartbreaking problem of violence in our cities.”

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