Yael T. Abouhalkah

August 26, 2014

Sorry, naysayers: KC’s crime rate actually dropping in 2014

Kansas Citians have good news to celebrate: Reported crimes were down 12 percent for the first six months of 2014, including a significant drop in murders. But that message, which will surprise some critics of KC, needs to get out to the general public.

At Kansas City’s police board meeting Tuesday, Mayor Sly James lamented that residents aren’t hearing enough about how crime rates have fallen in the city so far in 2014.

Overall, violent and property crimes were down 12 percent for the first six months.

“We have good numbers,” James said. “There’s a good story.”

Instead, he said, many residents are hearing too much about how the city is still “big, bad and ugly.”

That certainly fits the stereotypical view of how many critics and skeptics see the city — as a too dangerous place to live, work or play.

Part of the problem is that the Kansas City Police Department doesn’t do a good enough job getting the crime numbers to the public in easily viewable form, on a regular basis.

Deputy Chief Robert Kuehl on Tuesday made the point to the board that officers try to share this kind of information with residents during neighborhood association meetings, for instance, and while they are interacting with Kansas Citians.

But he acknowledged more could be done, even throwing out an excellent idea that should be acted on after, say, a full year of numbers are in.

“I’d love to see some of this on billboards” around the city, Kuehl said.

After the board meeting, I asked James about the numbers, mentioning that they are not at all easy to find on the police website.

He promptly ripped several sheets out of his police board book and shared them.

Here’s what they show through June 30, the last available reporting period:

Homicides were down 32 percent, from 47 to 32 in 2014.

Rapes were down 25 percent, from 134 to 100.

Robberies were down 10 percent, from 777 to 702.

Aggravated assaults were down 4 percent, from 1,853 to 1,786.

Non-aggravated assaults were up 4 percent, from 3,480 to 3,608.

Overall, violent crime was down 7 percent.

Add in the fact that the more prevalent property crimes — burglary, stealing, auto theft and arson — were down 13 percent, and the overall rate of crime in Kansas City declined by 12 percent in the first six months of the year.

Sure, there are caveats to all this good news.

It’s only half a year. Crime can spike back up quickly. And even some of the numbers are still too high. For instance, Kansas City’s homicide rate and violent crime rate are still above those of many of its peer cities.

But progress is notable, and should be publicized.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.

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