Fight blight to reduce homicides, police chief says

trash-picPolice Chief Darryl Forte last week doubled down on his call to combat violent crime by demolishing vacant buildings, eliminating strewn trash and more.

In his blog last week, he expanded on earlier comments to the Board of Police Commissioners.

It all comes against a backdrop of 109 homicides last year, way up from a near record low of 81 in 2014.

From his blog:

The low number in 2014 was an anomaly. Since the city started keeping consistent homicide records in 1969, there have only been 10 years with fewer than 100 homicides. There were more than 150 in 1992 and 1993, during a crack cocaine epidemic.

Police and city and civic leaders have often talked over the years about how to reduce the deaths and they are talking again.

From 2011 to 2014, police found that 75 percent of the homicides and all violent crime were in a 34-square-mile area. Just over 10 percent of the city’s land mass, it is from St. John Avenue south to 85th Street, Troost Avenue east to Topping Avenue.

“In fact, 90 percent of all violent crimes in Kansas City were associated with this area, meaning victims or suspects of crimes came from there, even if the crime didn’t take place there.”

But some neighborhoods in that area did not have high levels of violent crime.

What was different in them?

  • Fewer vacant homes
  • Residences posted as vacant and unsafe were quickly demolished
  • Higher concentrations of churches and places of worship
  • Working streetlights
  • Well-maintained, occupied properties
  • Well-maintained vacant lots
  • New or well-maintained sidewalks and roadways
  • Minimal trash
  • Higher home ownership vs. rental properties
  • Extremely active community associations and neighborhood watch programs

Blighted vacant houses – there are hundreds in the area – and things like trash and busted sidewalks are common at homicide scenes.

Police have tried to combat this with neighborhood cleanups on the Prospect Corridor but much more needs to be done.

Other approaches like proper prenatal care, early childhood education, parental involvement and graduating from high school can help prevent youth from becoming criminals.

He would also like to see the compulsory school attendance age increased from 16 to 18.

The entire community needs to step up, he said. “Imagine what it would look like if everyone in this city helped clean up a neighborhood or mentor a young person in the urban core.”

He also said he has responded to hundreds of homicide scenes and experienced the frustration of hearing family members or friends say, “I knew this was going to happen someday.”

Forte added, “If you fear for the life of someone because of the activity they’re involved in and the people they associate with, please tell us.”

He has requested 60 more officers, he said, but “would ten officers working a single block have as much impact as demolishing vacant houses, cleaning out trash and brush and improving infractruture? I don’t know.”

He ended: “But I think we all need to keep our minds open to whatever approach could decrease violence in Kansas City, Missouri, and then be willing to roll up our sleeves and help.”

One Comment

  1. aryn roth says:

    Police Chief Darryl Forte noted the following agenda could help curb violent crime in the targeted area:
    Fewer vacant homes, working streetlights, residences posted as vacant and unsafe were quickly demolished. Key being quickly ‘demolished’. It’s not the answer but a huge step in the right direction.
    I understand the frustration of long procedure through city services to enact the actions needed, perhaps there could be a fast track element to enable this process to help community rebuilding. Would contracts for demolition be more efficient if there were multiple structure by block for demolition @the same time. Are there community grants to cover these costs? Or tax credits (similar to TIFF) to the contractor awarded the job(s). Instead of some of our tax dollars going to the corporations, not necessarily in need of TIFF $ to accommodate their new building endeavors.

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