Government & Politics

Citizens Task Force on Violence discusses crime prevention in Kansas City

Members of the Citizens Task Force on Violence discussed prevention measures at a meeting Monday in Kansas City.
Members of the Citizens Task Force on Violence discussed prevention measures at a meeting Monday in Kansas City.

Kansas City’s Citizens Task Force on Violence on Monday night began discussing some of its possible recommendations on ways to reduce crime.

The 19-member task force, which includes elected officials, professionals, social service workers, clergy, educators and others, was formed last November and has hosted a series of listening sessions and other meetings around the city. It is supposed to complete its work next month.

Chairwoman Jolie Justus has said she doesn’t want to just produce a report that will gather dust on a shelf. She said she is striving to find recommendations for practical solutions that can be implemented relatively quickly.

On Monday, members discussed the need for some entity or person to coordinate the efforts of all the different groups and agencies that have programs in the community. Right now, there is much overlap and no coordination.

At past meetings, members of the community have expressed anger and frustration at the violent crime in their neighborhoods, and on Monday, task force members suggested the possibility of some sort of ongoing forum to give people a chance to heard.

Task force members believe that much of what’s been done in the past has focused on law enforcement and treatment. There needs to be more emphasis and funding for prevention efforts.

No violence prevention effort can come solely out of City Hall or the county courthouse, task force members said. A significant part of the solution must come from the community itself, Justus said.

Discussing gun violence, task force members said there is little the city can do through local legislation. One area that could be pursued is a push for a state law that mirrors federal law prohibiting a person against whom a full order of protection has been granted from possessing a firearm.

The task force wants to also use a public education campaign to communicate its anti-violence message to the community.

Violent crime has been a serious problem for the city during this year of task force meetings. Since January, the city has endured 91 homicides and is on pace to have the highest number of homicides in at least five years.

The city saw a significant drop in homicides in 2014, with 82 recorded for the whole year. But this time last year, the city had endured 80 homicides and went on to record 111. It had 100 violent deaths in 2013 and 106 homicides in 2012.

This year, officials are particularly concerned about a spike in domestic violence deaths, as well as child deaths. Six of the victims have been under age 17.

The task force is next scheduled to meet Oct. 25, and Justus said she hoped to have a list of draft recommendations for discussion at that meeting.

Tony Rizzo: 816-234-4435, @trizzkc