When the task force on violence in Kansas City delivered its findings last month, the focus was on developing a durable approach to making our city safer.
There are no easy answers. No quick fixes for police, City Hall or Kansas City’s residents. Rather, curbing violence demands action on many fronts, the group’s report said.
“Violence is a long-term community problem that will require long-term community solutions.” The task force underscored this point, taking a deep dive into preventing violence and also identifying the precursors to it.
But Kansas City’s deadly Memorial Day weekend offered a stark reminder of the need for urgent action, as well as a long-term plan.
Homicides are up 30 percent in Kansas City over the same period last year. The Star recently reported that from 2014 to 2016, the city saw a 64 percent spike in nonfatal shootings, an increase from 290 in 2014 to 477 last year.
The number of murders within the past few days alone highlights the need to move quickly. A 19-year-old man was shot and killed in a road rage incident. A 15-year-old died in a shooting. Another man was stabbed to death, and yet another man was found murdered in the woods off of the Trolley Track Trail.
With violent crime on the rise, one suggestion of the Citizens Task Force on Violence stands out: creating a full-time position to coordinate the city’s violence-prevention efforts. Mayor Sly James noted in April that the new hire was already included in the upcoming budget.
But the post is unfilled.
The mayor’s office expects to hire someone to serve in this crucial role in June. That person could coordinate efforts to implement many of the other recommendations in the task force’s report, including the creation of storefront community resource centers. A public-service campaign tackling the causes of violent, preventable deaths also remains on the to-do list.
Some of the most searing words on violent crime in Kansas City are contained in the June 2006 predecessor to the task force’s most recent report. The introductory letter to the Commission on Violent Crime is eerily accurate in its prediction:
“This region should no longer tolerate systemic poverty, poor education, apathy and violence. If this community continues forward with relatively no change, blindly refusing to address the systemic troubles festering in our hot spot neighborhoods, then, we will suffer the harm reverberated in 2005, again. It may not occur in 2006, but assuredly, in another five to 10 years, it will.”
We’re there, Kansas City. The task force’s recommendations are only a start. But we can’t afford to wait.