Mayor Sly James is waiting to hear from Gov. Eric Greitens whether state troopers might augment the Kansas City police force.
His comments Tuesday came in response to questions about whether Kansas City is likely to copy a pilot patrol program that launched Monday in St. Louis.
James said he wants to learn more about Greitens’ plan to use Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers to monitor more interstate highways in Kansas City — hopefully freeing Kansas City police to focus on gun violence and street crimes.
The Highway Patrol already handles interstates in smaller cities and part of Kansas City north of the Missouri River. The governor’s plan might expand that territory in the city south of the river.
“I would welcome a conversation to see what is going on and to see what the potential solutions are,” James said following the monthly Kansas City police board meeting.
During the next 90 days, state troopers will patrol stretches of Interstates 55 and 70 in St. Louis. Between 20 and 30 troopers are expected to be deployed there.
James said he is unsure if additional state troopers are needed in Kansas City. But the mayor said he wanted to see if state help in St. Louis is successful in reducing violent crime.
“The idea of just throwing something at a problem doesn’t mean that it is the best idea that is going to have results,” he said. “What’s the measurement? What’s the matrix for success? How are you going to judge it? How much time you are giving it? I don’t have enough information to know about whether it would make any sense or not.”
Last weekend was particularly violent. Four homicides were reported during a 48-hour period in Kansas City. There have been 76 homicides reported in Kansas City in 2017. There were 53 killings reported during the same period a year ago.
Non-fatal shootings jumped 64 percent from 2014 to 2016, and drive-by shootings have increased from last year.
Since June, interim Police Chief David Zimmerman has reassigned officers from various units to patrol, and targeted high crime areas in four small geographic locations throughout the city. The additional officers will patrol neighborhoods that have seen an increase in drive-by shootings, traffic fatalities and crimes.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Kansas City was one of 12 cities selected to receive federal assistance to combat gun violence and street crime.
The municipalities were chosen because they are experiencing levels of violence far exceeding the national average.
Police are doing what they can to reduce crime and combat the spike in homicides, James said.
“If anyone thinks that we are not out here trying to figure how to stop people from killing each other with guns all of the time, they’re crazy,” he said. “People want results but nobody has been able to find the solution to this problem. I don’t have it. Nobody in this country has it and until we have some solution to the problem, then we are going to have to keep bailing water as fast as we can.”