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KC to target violent criminals through new initiative

Kansas City leaders are promising the city’s most violent criminals a long hot summer.

And it has nothing to do with the weather.

A new initiative announced Tuesday afternoon will target those thought to be disproportionally responsible for the majority of violent crime on Kansas City streets.

“Kind of like cutting out a tumor,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James.

James announced the plan, called the KC No Violence Alliance, or KC NoVA, along with Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté at an afternoon press conference.

It will become a long-term collaborative effort aimed at the city’s urban core, which bears the brunt of violent crime, they said.

And beyond the focus on taking the worst criminals off the streets, it also will contain a social service component that will help with things like job training, education and health care for those seeking a way out of the criminal lifestyle.

The Kansas City plan is the result of several months of planning and studying similar “focused deterrence” programs in cities like Boston, Indianapolis and Cincinnati that have seen significant decreases in homicides and gun-related crimes.

“I’m confident it will yield similar positive results,” Forté said.

Though planning has been going on for months, the program recently received a jump start in the form of a $74,000 grant from Greater Kansas City Local Initiatives Support Corp., or LISC.

Part of the grant will be used to hire a project manager to oversee the effort and part will go to the University of Missouri-Kansas City to collect and evaluate data to determine where resources should be focused and on whom.

That effort will include creating profiles of the worst offenders, who can expect to bear the brunt of the concentrated effort, Baker said.

“Get ready,” Baker said. “Because we’re ready.”

Others who will be involved in KC NoVA are the U.S. attorney’s office, the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission, the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole and various social service agencies, faith-based organizations and community leaders.

The effort will be on-going and long-term in order to address what has been a long-standing problem in Kansas City, the organizers said.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” Forté said. “We know that next month there is not going to be a huge decrease. We didn’t get into the problem overnight, and we’re not going to get out of it overnight.”

The program will utilize components from different cities, including Cincinnati, whose program was featured in a Star story last month.

The Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) has shown great promise in reducing gang-related homicides and gun violence by focusing law enforcement attention not just on individual suspects, but their entire gangs or neighborhood cliques.

Robin Engel, a University of Cincinnati associate professor who worked on the project and spoke to The Star about it last month, was among officials from that city who met with their Kansas City counterparts recently.

She said the program lowered group or gang-related homicides 41 percent and gun violence incidents 22 percent in Cincinnati.

Part of the Cincinnati program involves face-to-face meetings with gang members and their associates during which they are confronted with information gathered on their activities and warned that future violence will be met with harsh measures. As Kansas City plans to do, officials in Cincinnati also offer social service help for those who want to take advantage of the opportunities.

Forté said that Kansas City also intends to employ some form of the face-to-face meetings.

The leaders at Tuesday’s press conference wouldn’t venture a specific time for when they expected to see results, although Baker said she would expect to see noticeable results by next summer.

Although all of the entities involved in KC NoVA have embarked on their own crime-fighting strategies, Baker said it was the first time she can recall such a focused, collaborative effort in the 15 years she has worked as a prosecutor in Jackson County.

The leaders all said they are all committed to fighting the problem, and KC NoVA is the best way they have found to carry it out.

“If we do nothing we already know what will happen,” Forté said.