Last Sunday’s editorial
lambasting the City Council Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee for not appearing to care about the city’s high murder rates and not spending more time grilling police commanders about plans to reduce them reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of City Council committees.
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The primary responsibility of committees is to make recommendations to the council on proposed ordinances. All committees spend most of their time doing that.
Important ordinances, passed through the leadership of Public Safety Committee members, include measures to strengthen laws against prowling and receiving stolen property, outlaw the promotion of prostitution, tighten regulations on the purchase of copper and precious metals, increase penalties for animal cruelty, hold parents responsible for their children’s bullying, combat chronic truancy, enact a 72-hour holding period before older vehicles scrapped without a title can be destroyed, allow police to stop and ticket drivers who don’t wear seat belts, and authorize police to initiate complaints on break-ins and thefts from vacant buildings if landlords won’t.
In addition, the committee monitors Fire Department emergency medical response times, curfew violations and audits of public safety agencies. The committee played a leadership role in implementing the program to always include a paramedic (with appropriate medical equipment) on the crews of five pumper trucks in areas difficult to respond to quickly with ambulances, which hopefully will continue to expand.
The committee has hosted presentations to educate the public about combating hate crimes and human trafficking; preparing for winter weather, tornadoes and flooding; reducing the chances of vehicle thefts and break-ins; and programs to identify and protect victims of domestic violence at high risk of being fatally injured.
Every member of the committee cares deeply about reducing our city’s murder rates and feels Chief Darryl Forté and the police board including Mayor Sly James have embraced a proven strategy to reduce murders by focusing on the small number of violent career criminals responsible for a huge percentage of our violent crime.
These individuals have been identified, their connections with other criminals have been plotted out, and local and federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors are working together as never before through the Kansas City No Violence Alliance to break up these criminal networks.
Individuals linked to these criminal networks who aren’t hardcore career criminals are offered help to straighten out their lives, but if they refuse to change the alternative is vigorous prosecution and lengthy incarceration.
This focused approach has worked in other cities and it will work here, but it will not work overnight. However, I expect to see real progress this year in reducing homicides.
Another proven program that has already helped greatly reduce homicides in some of our city’s high crime areas is Aim4Peace. It utilizes community residents to work the streets to change the culture of violence and reduce violent retaliation.
Aim4Peace remains severely underfunded, and I support significantly increasing funding in upcoming fiscal years so it can expand to include all the most crime ridden parts of our city.