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Jackson County prosecutor says crime reduction model returning, will focus on KC juvenile crime, gun violence

Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker
Posted at 4:52 PM, Apr 25, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In 2014, a violence reduction program called KC No Violence Alliance (NoVA) was implemented in Jackson County.

Through a strategy called focused deterrence, prosecutors and police say it proved to lower violence in the Kansas City area.

With a change of Kansas City, Missouri, leadership shortly after 2014, the program went away, and over the years, our violence levels rose.

Currently, violence levels are at a historic high.

Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker sees it everyday in her work.

“Since we ceased the use of this kind of formula, violence has only escalated, so without this type of model in place, violence escalated in our city," Peters Baker said.

Now, Peter Baker's office, the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department, and community members are starting the model up again, but they say it’s much improved.

It's called "Save KC."

“The only way something like this works is if you collaborate" Peters Baker said.

KSHB 41 reporter Megan Abundis had an exclusive sit-down interview with Peters Baker on how the program will work.

Peters Baker said this effort will look different than in 2014 because they have more people involved and their knowledge and efforts have grown.

City and county leaders agree now is the time to roll out this program because violence levels are persistently high.

This academically backed program and focused deterrence model are based on what a community needs.

Peters Baker says in Jackson County’s case, it’s gun violence.

Once the people who are driving the violence are identified, groups will work hard to get them out of that cycle.

The county did some of this in 2014 and it worked, but now leaders say it’s better tailored to our city, and more of our community is involved.

"I want a reduction in violence desperately," Peters Baker said.

The goal is to reduce and prevent violence across the area.

"What can we do to reduce overall violence rates?" Peters Baker said. "That’s how this program should be judged; did we reduce, and how did we get there?"

Peters Baker has seen this model work before, where a small percentage of people who drive a large percentage of violence are identified and invited to get help.

They’ve created a board to get this done, made up of academic and community advisors, prosecutors, and police to measure success.

"The community member that serves on this board is just as important as the police chief, the prosecutor, or the mayor," she said.

Peters Baker said the community will lead this effort, so they’ll find the people who are deeply engaged in violence, then bring them all together; it’s called a "call in."

"The individuals we are really trying to reach — those at most risk of being caught up in violence — as being a victim or an offender," she said.

Peters Baker said she sees a lot of back and forth where one day someone is a victim and the next day they are the perpetrator of violence.

“This 'call in' is simply an opportunity for messaging; we want to speak to them," she said. "Our message is pretty simple: we’re not going to tolerate their violence, but we also want them to succeed. We want them to live successfully in our community, and what can we do to help get them there?"

Peters Baker says they’ll be given opportunities to change their ways and make sure the services offered are actually delivered.

“It’s not a trick; it’s a genuine offer of service," she said. “They leave through the same door they came in through; they receive a message, but there is no harm that comes to them. It’s not just 'pick path A or pick path B,' there is some gray in the middle, and that’s because humans are nuanced and they need different things at different times in their lives."

Peters Baker says participants will also know there is a layer of accountability and prosecution is on the table.

"Part of the calculus ought to be, 'What’s in it for them?" she said. “The pathway of violence comes with a lot of dire consequences for them. It might come with a prison cell, and no one wants to pick that path."

Peters Baker and this group is focused on juvenile crime, but she made clear that the de-regulation of guns in Missouri made prosecution harder.

“Juveniles can possess legally in Missouri. I think that’s crazy, bluntly," she said. "I think that has not proven to make us safer. Because Missouri law is not helping us, it’s making our jobs harder. Bluntly, any lives we can save are lives worth saving."

This program is also a part of the KCPD chief's crime plan, we have a link to it here.