No Violence Alliance offers targeted violent offenders help – or jail

Police Capt. Joe McHale has a job that is the first of its kind, starting with where his office is located.

He and three officers are in Jackson County prosecutor digs on the 11th floor of the Downtown county courthouse.

They are the police component and he is the project manager of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, an operation formed this summer to attack violent crime in new ways.

The effort also includes police, prosecutors, probation and parole, family support groups, and faith-based organizations that will target groups of violent criminals to either help them or send them to prison.

“We’ll put them on notice,” McHale said. “We’ll put our cards on the table. If you become involved in a violent act, we’re going to intervene and take down your network.”

An inch-tall stack of papers on his desk contains information on the first identified network, which amounts to things like connections, beefs and alliances among 365 criminals. A chart shows them as dots connected by lines running in various directions, a kind of spider’s web.

One out of five is on probation; one in three is wanted for something; and one in nine is wanted for a felony. That is a lot of leverage for police when they move in with offers of things like substance abuse treatment, transitional housing, education assistance – or else.

McHale is in the process of hiring two social workers now. The team will point the criminals toward a new path, McHale said, “but if you don’t take it we’re still going to be there to spank you.”

Gathering and compiling intelligence data in new ways means “we will actually have the ability to predict who is going to be involved in violent crime,” he said.

Andrew Fox, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, was with McHale this week. He does intelligence support work to build the social networks, trains police to do them and will evaluate the NoVA effort.

The approach reduced youth homicides 63 percent in Boston and reduced all homicides 47 percent in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“If we can reduce homicides by 30 percent, which in Kansas City is about 40 people, that’s a home run for us,” McHale said.

McHale, 42, is a 22-year veteran and son of retired KCPD police major Joe McHale, who died this year. For years the son wore his father’s old sergeant badge. McHale was promoted this summer and started wearing his father’s old captain’s badge.

A picture of the two of them together hangs in his office.

Now his challenge is to lead police in new approaches, some of them very different from traditional hard-core enforcement and the path taken by his father.

“I’m a brand new captain walking into a position that is basically a blank piece of paper,” he said. Change is hard, he says, but so is reducing homicides by 30 percent