Homicides in Kansas City through August are way down from the last few years. The overall violent crime rate has declined as well. These are positive results of collaboration by local officials to attack decades-old scourges in the city.
As The Star’s Editorial Board has tracked each murder in 2014, it has been encouraging to see that innovative crime-reduction efforts could be paying off.
It’s too soon to say whether the Anti-Violence Special Initiative, one of the new programs this year, eventually will be a difference maker as well. But supporters contend that a collection of 16 plans, funded with $562,000 from Jackson County’s COMBAT anti-drug program, is off to a promising start.
That’s not a lot of money, but this is on purpose. Officials say they want to sharply focus on a handful of potentially effective ways to improve the community.
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“We want to start small, see what sticks, what works,” says Stacey Daniels-Young, COMBAT’s executive director.
COMBAT late last year asked local providers to submit strategic plans to address key issues such as helping ex-offenders stay away from crime after they return home, keeping kids out of violent gangs and supporting ways to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence.
Grants in the range of $20,000 to $50,000 then were given to organizations that include the Rose Brooks Center, the Kansas City Crime Commission, reStart Inc., the Mattie Rhodes Counseling Center, the Full Employment Council and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City.
Work is underway to carry out the programs. Some will help people who need a chance at a good job or a better education so they can stay away from violent behavior.
Cathy Jolly, senior adviser to Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, said COMBAT laid out specific guidelines for violence reduction plans, and then challenged providers to come up with “something new” along those lines.
“We don’t want to waste resources,” Jolly said. “We don’t want redundancy.” That’s why some providers are finding ways to partner with one another to try to offer better services to their clients.
Evaluations are ongoing by local officials as well as an independent consultant to see what’s working — and what’s not. By early 2015, the county will know whether the special initiative can be enhanced and whether it’s worth bolstering with more public funds.
As Mayor Sly James noted in an interview last week, it’s essential that local efforts to reduce homicides and violent crimes remain part of a collaborative process. We agree, partly based on the good work being done through the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, which is led by County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. Her office partners with the mayor’s office, the Kansas City Police Department, the FBI and groups that offer social services to NOVA participants to help them stay away from lives of crime.
As August draws to a close today, Kansas City’s murder rate remains far behind that of previous years.
Through Friday evening, the city had suffered a total of 43 homicides, including three in August. That compares favorably with the 67 murders by this time in 2013 and 2012, and the 70 recorded in 2011.
Roberto E. Mejia, 29, was shot on Aug. 3 near Eighth and Jefferson streets. Stephon L. Cunningham, 20, was shot on Aug. 10 after two cars pulled alongside his and opened fire near Broadway and Southwest Boulevard. Darrell Fennell, 30, was found last Sunday at the intersection of Truman Road and Woodland Avenue with a fatal gunshot wound.
Backers of COMBAT’s Anti-Violence Special Initiative say their programs’ effectiveness will be judged, at least in part, on whether violent crime and recidivism rates among their clients go down.
Those are worthwhile goals. It will be crucial for independent consultants to determine whether the new collaborative efforts are succeeding.