Editorial: Here’s how Gov. Eric Greitens could help Kansas City combat violent crime

On Monday, Gov. Eric Greitens unveiled his anti-crime efforts for St. Louis. Unmentioned was Kansas City’s escalating murder rate.
On Monday, Gov. Eric Greitens unveiled his anti-crime efforts for St. Louis. Unmentioned was Kansas City’s escalating murder rate. AP

Gov. Eric Greitens visited St. Louis Monday to roll out his version of an anti-crime program, declaring Missouri’s eastern urban hub “the most dangerous city in the United States of America.”

Come to Kansas City, governor.

Our city is tallying a ghastly number of murders. And Kansas City has astounding rates of shootings that aren’t fatal. Some experts see those statistics as even more indicative of the terror that violent crime inflicts upon communities.

Your help would be appreciated in Kansas City, governor, especially in the form of funding, enlisting the help of the state’s probation and parole officials and listening to local concerns.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has a number of solid suggestions for how the state could join ongoing efforts here, as well as a few that are about to launch.

In St. Louis, Greitens made a show of highlighting about two dozen state troopers who will increase patrols on highways, targeting violent felons.

In Kansas City, the police department could use state troopers’ help to investigate cold case homicides, Baker suggested. After all, troopers are already a welcome presence on Interstates 70, 29 and 35.

The governor also could focus on the state’s prisoners, working closely with probation and parole officials. Many former state inmates return to either Kansas City or St. Louis. Help with that transition and strengthening re-entry programming would likely curb violence in both cities.

The state also could provide a significant boost to Kansas City’s crime reduction efforts by providing funding, Baker said.

Kansas City No Violence Alliance, KC NoVA, has never received a dime of state money. NoVA targets the city’s most violent criminals with swift punishment but also offers social services. NoVA is seeking funds as it continues to roll out new initiatives, including one that will begin in August and will provide conflict resolution training for students at four high schools and two middle schools in the Kansas City School District.

KC NoVA hopes to hire a community leader, a person who will be positioned alongside police leadership in these efforts. The role has long been envisioned, but funding has never made it possible.

Kansas City is also beginning the search for a violent crime programs coordinator to report directly to the city manager. That person will have the hefty task of aligning existing anti-violence efforts to implement the recommendations of the recent Citizens’ Task Force on Violence.

In St. Louis, Greitens delivered an important message on combating crime, but he stumbled on the issue of guns. A St. Louis alderman pointedly asked the governor about laws that have made it easier for people to carry guns, especially concealed ones, in recent years.

Greitens gave a dismissive reply, reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “You and I have different positions on the Second Amendment.”

The governor should bring a more open mindset if he visits Kansas City. In urban areas such as ours, criminals’ access to guns is a major issue.

Changes to state law have hampered law enforcement’s ability to confiscate guns from those they suspect have criminal intent.

In his scripted remarks, Greitens offered all the right words in St. Louis. He spoke about how violent crime tears communities apart and can virtually hold law-abiding citizens hostage.

Kansas City is wrestling with the same issues. And the governor’s assistance would be welcome.