City homicide rate way down last year, but can it last?


File Photo. Joe McHale.

Last year finished with 77 homicides – the lowest number in 42 years, but police believe they can do better.

The Kansas City No Violence Alliance is considered a major force in the reduction but police have also reorganized to mesh with its effort.

More changes will be made his year, police Major Joe McHale told the city council public safety committee this week.
“The way we police Kansas City continues to evolve to this day,” said McHale, who is the manager of NoVA.

The homicides last year were the fewest since 72 in 1972.

They amount to a homicide rate of 16.5 per 100,000 population. That is down from a string of six years with more than 100 homicides and a 2013 homicide rate of almost 23 per 100,000 residents.

The Kansas City and St. Louis homicide rates have long been comparably high, McHale said, among the top 10 in the nation.

But McHale noted that St. Louis homicides increased dramatically last year to 159 and to a rate of almost 50 per 100,000.

When NoVA started two years ago, McHale said they hoped to achieve a 30 percent homicide reduction in five years.

The numbers last year put it well on the way to achieve that or better, if the decline can last.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” McHale told the committee.

“You can’t rest,” he said in an interview. “There are things we’ve learned and we’ve done once or twice that we can do better.”

Mass arrests of violent groups identified by police intelligence can be faster and smoother, he said.

And he expects more efforts to lure non-violent offenders out of lives of crime. NoVA has five workers called “client advocacy staff” who help with a variety of things like jobs, housing and other needs.

More advocates might have to be hired in the push to further reduce the killings, McHale said.

“I think there is a chance for us to do better and we’re going to work our … off to do it,” he said.


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