No violence alliance fights stubborn homicide rate: people keep killing each other

By Joe Lambe

The Kansas City No Violence Alliance worked this year to greatly reduce homicides in one of the nation’s most violent cities, but that won’t come easy.

As of Monday, the yearly total stood at 103 and will likely end up above the 106 average, police said.

That is in spite of NoVA’s massive intelligence data, arrest sweeps and call-ins intended to help suspects and persuade them to leave crime.

Other violent crimes like shooting assaults are also not down by much, police reported Monday to the mayor and city manager.

The massive scientific data compiled so far that links criminal suspects in groups is a blessing but also a curse, police said.

“We now have so much horsepower aimed to point people in the right direction,” said deputy chief Robert Kuehl, but police are still learning how to use it.

In an interview, police Capt. Joe McHale, project manager of NoVA, said they still have not fully implemented their model and must gather more intelligence.

“We think we have the groups covered but we don’t have the capacity right now to overlay which groups are feuding with other groups,” he said.

At the same time, national experts on the program model summoned NoVA leaders to New York City last week and were impressed by the data police and UMKC researchers had compiled, McHale said.

The expert group, the National Network for Safe Communities out of John Jay University, had wanted $250,000 to advise NoVA early in the year but did it for free last week after hearing of its work, he said.

They suggested some changes that will be explored but gave the project good reviews, McHale said.

In its social service component, the project has helped about 45 people and is screening 90 others, he said.

Mayor Sly James said citizens will not measure success by the number of suspects saved.

“The way I measure success is the same way Joe Blow on the street probably looks at it – how many murders did we have on the street – 100? Didn’t we have 100 last year?” James said.

“I don’t think we have 20 years to do this,” he added. “If anything it is 20 months.”

Councilman John sharp, chairman of the public safety committee, said NoVA will succeed and “it’s so much more sophisticated than anything we’ve done up to this point.”

Much has failed. Kansas City’s murder rate has historically been high and stands at almost 23 per 100,000 people – far above the 15.9 percent rate for violent Chicago and the 4.8 percent rate nationwide.

Sharp said, “We didn’t get where we are overnight, we won’t get out overnight.”

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