‘Get out of our city’: KCK police chief touts 219 arrests in Operation Lateral Storm

Operation Lateral Storm targeted the ‘baddest of the bad’ KCK Chief says

Law enforcement agencies, including Kansas City, Kansas, police and the U.S. Marshal's Service, teamed up in a joint operation to arrest criminals in the city.
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Law enforcement agencies, including Kansas City, Kansas, police and the U.S. Marshal's Service, teamed up in a joint operation to arrest criminals in the city.

A 60-day crime-fighting initiative targeting gang, drug and gun activity in Kansas City, Kansas, resulted in the arrest of 219 people and cleared 583 warrants, officials said Monday.

Police Chief Terry Zeigler said he was “very happy” with the results during a press conference Monday at police headquarters in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

“I guess the messages to criminals are, ‘Get out of our city. Don’t care where you go, just don’t come to KCK,” Zeigler said. “Don’t do your crime here. We will track you down.”

The initiative, dubbed Operation Lateral Storm, involved law enforcement officials from local, state and federal agencies. The U.S. Marshals Service administers a crime reduction effort that is focused on reducing violent crime by taking dangerous offenders off the street.

“Crime in Kansas City, Kansas, continues to go down,” said Zeigler, who added that homicides are at a 30-year-low when comparing this year to previous years.

Community cooperation and involvement was part of the reason for that drop in crime, Zeigler said. Another part is the partnership that the department has with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in initiatives like Operation Lateral Storm.

“This is the kind of operation that has a long-term impact on crime because we are going after the baddest of the bad and we are getting them incarcerated for longer periods of time,” Zeigler said. “I’m confident by the end of 2019, we will see another reduction in violent crime.”

The department has placed an emphasis on drive-by shootings the past couple of years. In 2017, the city had a record high of 345 drive by shootings. Last year, the number dropped to 284 because of the police department’s partnerships and various crime reduction initiatives, Zeigler said.

“This initiative, ‘Operation Lateral Storm,’ also concentrated on gangbangers and getting them arrested,” Zeigler said.

U.S. Marshal Ron Miller said a key to the operation was the high number of arrest warrants that were cleared.

“These are folks who already had warrants for their arrest,” Miller said. “Many of them knew that they had warrants for their arrests. They weren’t going to turn themselves in.

“It’s our job to go get them,” he said.

Law enforcement does that by analyzing crime statistics to pinpoint hot spots and comparing with state and local warrants. Investigative work is then done to determine who the people are, where do they live, who they run with, what do they drive and where do they go.

A relatively small number of people, about 5 or 6 percent, commit 60 to 80 percent of crimes, Miller said. By targeting them and entering them back into the criminal justice system, crime goes down.

The initiative falls under the U.S. Marshals’ nationwide crime reduction initiative called Operation Triple Beam. Last year, about 200 people were arrested during an operation in Kansas City, Kansas.

This year, the local operation was called Lateral Storm to give a nod to the lateral efforts done locally with partner agencies, Miller said. The budget was $60,000, which went to cover overtime for the state and local officers.

The initiatives have been successful, according to crime stats in the targeted areas. During the 60-day period, violent crimes in the targeted area dropped 29 percent, from 98 in 2018 to 69 this year. Property crimes also dropped 36 percent during the same period.

The biggest target area was generally bounded by Seventh to 18th streets and Pacific to Grandview avenues.

“All indications that we have right now is that crime is going down and going in the right direction,” Zeigler said.

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Robert A. Cronkleton gets up very early in the morning to bring readers breaking news about crime, transportation and weather at the crack of dawn. He’s been at The Star since 1987 and now contributes data reporting and video editing.