Kansas City has worst homicide toll in 3 years

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (AP) -- The bad news: Kansas City recorded 114 homicides in 2011, a 7.5 percent increase from the previous year. The good news: Police solved more of the killings than they had in previous years, according to police records.

More than half of last year's homicides were triggered by domestic violence, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/vvPiLU ). The toll included nine double homicides and two triple homicides -- four times the number of multiple killings in 2010. Seventeen people were killed in November, the city's bloodiest month in three years.

Police Chief Darryl Forte, who became chief in October, said strategies he introduced to reduce the violence will take time but he was encouraged by what he called an increase in witness cooperation in recent months. He assigned extra officers into known violent areas to reduce crime and build relationships with residents. Jackson County prosecutors have assigned attorneys to focus on prosecuting offenders in the two areas.

"We have to figure out as a community how to help people manage their anger," he said. "They don't know how to resolve conflict."

More than a hundred family and friends gathered Sunday in east Kansas City for a ceremony remembering the victims.

One of them was Patricia Webb, whose son, Raymond Hill, 20, died Sept. 18 along with two other people in a midtown apartment building.

"This was my first Christmas without him," she said. "People who do this -- kill people -- they don't know our pain."

The Star reported that victims older than 24 accounted for 66 percent of the victims, up from 51 percent in 2010. That toll includes the oldest victim in more than a decade, a 93-year-old man who was killed during a robbery in his home. Most of the victims were black men, and most were killed by firearms.

James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University Boston, said multiple killings and older victims often correlate with family violence.

Still, Fox said "there is a certain randomness to the actual number of homicides" that occur each year. He said cities nationwide reported a mix of increases or decreases in homicides in 2011.

"Every year there is a mix," he said. "Oftentimes when a city is up one year, it's because they were down the previous year."

The city had no child-abuse homicides in 2011 compared with at least four in 2010. The youngest victim killed last year was an 11-year-old girl hit by stray gunfire during a July Fourth celebration.

While a third of the killings remain unsolved, police solved 66 percent of the homicides, compared with 42 percent in 2010. The clearance rate at the end of 2011 was the highest in at least seven years. Detectives also solved 18 homicides last year that occurred in previous years.

A shakeup in the homicide unit helped the clearance rate, said Homicide Capt. Floyd Mitchell.

In February, more detectives were added to the homicide unit, allowing Mitchell could create a fourth homicide squad. Mitchell also changed the detectives' rotation schedule to allow more time for investigators to work on each case.

And police believe they know who committed many of the "unsolved" cases.

"We've probably solved 95 percent," Kansas City homicide detective Everett Babcock said. "We know who did it. We just need that last bit of evidence to prove it."

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