In an effort to combat a spike in homicides, gun violence and street crime, Kansas City police have deployed additional officers in four small geographic areas of the city.
The additional officers are tasked with patrolling those areas and creating an increased and more visible police presence, Interim Police Chief David Zimmerman wrote in a blog posted Monday morning.
Zimmerman said he has pulled officers from various units to target those violent hot spots.
“I want to be clear this is NOT a zero-tolerance initiative,” Zimmerman said. “It is intelligence-led policing. We are putting extra resources in these violence-stricken neighborhoods to help the residents feel safer where they live.
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“I want these officers to build relationships with the residents and deter violent crime, not stop and cite law-abiding citizens for minor infractions,” he said. “We hope the residents will partner with us to warn us of festering disagreements that could escalate into violence, possible instances of retaliation or provide information that may help solve violent crimes.”
So far this year, there have been 66 homicides reported in Kansas City. This past weekend, three people were gunned down in various portions of the urban core.
Police continue to investigate four homicides that have occurred on the Blue River and the Indian Creek trails. In those killings, police said there are “obvious similarities” among the four victims.
Ten days ago, three men were fatally shot while they sat in a car outside a residence in the 7100 block of Monroe Avenue.
From 2014 to 2016, the city saw an alarming 64 percent spike in nonfatal shootings, an increase from 290 in 2014 to 477 last year. Drive-by shootings are up 51 percent this year.
Gun violence is heavily concentrated in certain neighborhoods. A central swath from Independence Avenue south to about Longview Road and between Troost Avenue on the west and Topping Avenue on the east saw most of the shootings.
Additional police resources are expected to be deployed in areas where there has been an increase in drive-by shootings, traffic fatalities and crimes.
Councilwoman Alissia Canady has asked police officials to see if additional officers could be assigned to patrol high crime areas throughout the city.
“I appreciate the chief’s and board of police commissioners willingness to reallocate resources after looking at staffing in the patrols in high crime areas,” said Canady, who serves as chairwoman of the council’s public safety committee. “It is good to see them responding swiftly to community concerns and requests. It is a sign that we are headed in the right direction.”
Homicides, gun and street violence have been trending up nationwide in recent months, said Kansas City Police Acting Deputy Chief Scott Glaeser.
“We tried to take a look at trends, our deployment of officers, our resources that we had available,” Glaeser said. “We wanted to take some of those flexible resources available that traditionally have not been used for calls for service workloads and have them assist in fighting violent crimes.”
Third District-at large Councilman Quinton D. Lucas said the increasing deployment in high-crime areas shows the Police Department recognizes what the community is experiencing — increased bloodshed and emboldened criminal activity throughout Kansas City over recent years.
“Increased officer presence in the community provides not only more awareness by criminals of officers in their area, but also allows officers to more rapidly address life-threatening situations and investigations immediately after crime takes place,” Lucas said. “Data will always matter, but it can never replace the work and experience an officer in the field provides. Every violent crime is a tragedy.
“Those of us in leadership have a duty to fight it. This decision recognizes that while not a cure-all, better deployment of the department’s most important resource, its officers, is one of the many things we must do to stem the rise of the violent crime,” he said.
Officers from across the Police Department now attend biweekly intelligence-gathering meetings to share information and discuss violent crime trends. Zimmerman said police would decide at the intelligence-gathering sessions where the additional police resources will be sent.
“While we will not publicize the exact location of these zones, residents in these areas should notice the increased police presence,” he said.