Kansas City and St. Louis traditionally are among the bloodiest cities in America. For too many years, both have had extremely high and embarrassing murder rates.
But when 2014 ended Wednesday night, that trend had taken a more positive turn — at least in Kansas City.
It recorded 77 homicides for the year, way down from 100 in 2013.
By contrast, St. Louis suffered an alarming 159 murders, way up from the 120 in the previous year.
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It’s notable that Kansas City, with an estimated population of more than 465,000, is far larger than the long-declining St. Louis, with just under 319,000 people.
Taking that into account:
▪ St. Louis had an alarming 49.9 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2014.
▪ Kansas City’s rate of 16.5 murders per 100,000 people was much better.
Yet hold off on any big celebration about that recent success.
True, efforts by Police Chief Darryl Forté, the Police Department, the No Violence Alliance (including Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker) and other groups such as Aim4Peace have helped focus far more attention on the city’s murder problem. In 2014, it appears they have had some success in making the streets safer in many Kansas City neighborhoods.
However, even the city’s improved homicide rate likely will still be among the 10 worst in the list of the country’s 50 largest cities when the FBI releases final 2014 figures later this year.
St. Louis, by the way, no longer is among the country’s 50 largest cities. However, its new murder rate for 2014 actually topped that of Detroit’s, which at 45.1 per 100,000 people led the FBI’s list in 2013.
St. Louis law enforcement officials, politicians and residents obviously have much work to do in trying to reduce their city’s sky-high homicide rate.
As for Kansas City, it also still has far to go to get to where so many other large, urban cities are today. For instance, 31 cities in 2013 had homicide rates under 10 per 100,000 residents.
That list included a lot of cities that many people might think of as being more of a murder capital than Kansas City, such as Houston, Los Angeles, Boston and New York City.
Actually, New York City just finished 2014 with fewer than 330 homicides. That means a city with 18 times the population of Kansas City had barely more than four times as many murders as our city did.
The target in 2015 should be to keep driving Kansas City’s number of homicides down, which should help the city partly shed its image as a too-violent municipality.