KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A string of homicides in the Kansas City metro has city officials, police and community violence prevention advocates concerned.
Seven homicides have been reported throughout Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, in the last week.
KCPD spokesperson Leslie Foreman says employee retention paired with the ongoing officer shortage poses an additional burden on those currently answering calls.
Meanwhile, Branden Mims has been at the forefront of violence prevention initiatives in Kansas City as the chief operating officer of Ad Hoc Group Against Crime.
He says there is a generational gun violence culture in Kansas City and believes the root causes of violence are multi-faceted, ranging from economic disparities to lack of education on conflict resolution.
“When I hear five homicides in a span of just a few days, it breaks my heart. But it also tells us that we have so much more work to do in the community,” Mims said. “We ask people to raise their hand at a vigil and say, ‘Do you know anybody who has been a homicide victim or been a perpetrator?’ And we get nearly 100% participation when hands are raised, and it tells us that the gun violence has run so deep in our community that it is touching almost everyone."
As a solution, the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime has created employment programs and courses for healthy relationships to combat domestic violence.
The group was also a part of Kansas City leaders who went on a violence prevention tour to cities across America with high and low rates of violence to see what is and is not working.
From that trip, leaders adopted a model from Omaha called 360 Empowerment Network. KCPD interim Police Chief Joseph Mabin reports Omaha saw a 74% drop in gun violence over 10 years. Mims says the key part of the model is ensuring all parties are at the table.
“Everyone from city officials to nonprofits and community agencies, like us, all want the same thing, so we’re hopeful,” Mims said.
Mims encourages the community to tell more stories of victims and their families instead of reporting on the numbers.
“Sometimes we’re so busy quoting the number of individuals who are killed that we don’t always highlight their humanity,” Mims said. “If you’ve never stood at a homicide and held a grieving mother from crossing the tape, then you have no idea what it’s like to partner with the pain.”