As homicides rise, new anti-crime program begins arrests

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said yesterday was the perfect day to launch a new anti-violence program.

Less than two hours Wednesday after a new double homicide – making the total six since Monday – the city’s anti-crime leaders announced a first arrest sweep in their new program aimed at cutting the murder rate.

They didn’t know of the two new killings in south Kansas City when they scheduled the press conference on the No Violence Alliance, but this week’s surge in sudden death played in the message.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said, “I can’t think of a better day than today to launch this.”

Mayor Sly James said the NOVA effort amounts to drawing a line in the sand.

“We’re going to engage in a long war against the slow motion mass murder that occurs in this city every year,” he said.

They, the police chief, the U.S. attorney in Kansas City and an administrator with Missouri probation and parole are on the NOVA board and the groups share its costs.

Researchers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City help gather and chart intelligence on criminal networks and document a program aimed at cutting the 108 homicides last year to 80 homicides within two years.

Using that intelligence, NOVA launched its first sweep Tuesday against a network of about 360 people.

They arrested 17, including suspects in many homicides, cleared 49 warrants, and brought 15 new charges, officials said.

Some on the fringes of the group will be approached by social workers and given help such as substance abuse treatment, GED training and more if they abandon crime.

Criminals, James said, can go straight or pack toothbrushes.

“We’ve had enough, we’re calling you out, we’re going to give you a choice to redeem yourself and if you don’t we’re going to put your butt in jail.”

The program started last year has had success in other cities, reducing violent crime by 30 percent in Cincinnati and Boston, officials said.

Peters Baker was among those calling for the faith community to help get the message to those who distrust law enforcement.

She also said united and radical new action like NOVA was needed to change the dynamic that routinely results in more than 100 murders a year.

“We know this is going to be a long road,” she said, and they are all going down it together.

Police Capt. Joe McHale, who leads the NOVA group that includes a sergeant, four detectives and a social worker, said they would move against far larger groups.

Police Chief Darryl Forte said: “Be forewarned, this type of action can come at any time.”

On the wall hung a paper with interconnected dots of different colors, a computer generated intelligence report on connections among that first group of criminals.

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