KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Leaders of a program aimed at reducing crime in Kansas City are hopeful that groundwork laid and lessons learned in 2013 will mean less violence in 2014.
The Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas City No Violence Alliance uses a "focused deterrence" crime prevention strategy that that has been successful in other cities. The idea is that police and prosecutors focus on the small number of people responsible for the majority of violent crimes. Often, those people are affiliated with gangs or loosely organized criminal groups. They and their associates are told that violence no longer will be tolerated.
But along with that law enforcement stick comes a carrot of social services help for those seeking a chance to escape from the criminal life.
The past year began on a hopeful note before KC NoVa staff were confronted with an upsurge in shootings and homicides attributed to people they had not accounted for. They soon realized that the data they had compiled did not include people returning to the streets after long prison sentences.
"That kicked off a whole bunch of violence this summer," said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, a member of KC NoVa's governing board.
The Kansas City homicide count again topped the century mark, but the program has adjusted. Now members of the targeted groups who are about to get out of prison are paid a visit and told: "We know who you are and we are watching you," said Capt. Joe McHale, KC NoVa project manager.
Along with that, they are provided information about social services available to help with their re-entry into the community.
"We are really going to be paying attention to their needs," McHale said.
The Rev. Rodney Williams, pastor of Swope Parkway United Christian Church, has and heard community feedback about KC NoVa. Williams said people are becoming more aware of and supportive of what KC NoVa is trying to do.
"They've built a good foundation," Williams said. "From the faith-based perspective, I see this as the hand of God moving in the community, bringing so many entities together for one common cause."