KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas formally announced a plan for a new crime initiative in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
He was joined by Chief of Police Rick Smith, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and community leaders.
Lucas gave 41 Action News a preview of the plan during an interview Tuesday morning.
The announcement comes as Kansas City experiences one of the deadliest years on record for homicides.
The plan will focus on four pillars: prevention, intervention, enforcement and administrative reform.
It targets improvements such as better-lit neighborhoods, connecting with at-risk individuals, a higher crime clearance rate and stripping the city code of discriminatory policies, Lucas said.
There will be a large community component to the plan. City leaders will start going on walks around neighborhoods with their residents on Thursday to hear more about what they need in order to deter crime in their areas.
"Let's make the community the first part of it. Let's make neighborhoods the focus," Lucas said while emphasizing the need for officials and community leaders to listen to members of the community. "We're not just saying we don't care about your opinion because you got in trouble."
He talked about improving the city's reputation for crime and asking community members to make long-term investments in the plan.
Civic leaders plan to use the next three months to listen and further solidify a plan for January.
Baker called out several "key" community groups for not being on the steps of City Hall during the announcement, including the NAACP, ACLU, AdHoc Group Against Crime and many others. But she said that they were not there because they do not trust government officials.
"Man, are they capable. They are smart and committed to ending violence," Baker said.
She said she will be contacting the groups to see how the city and the organizations can work together to prevent crime.
"Violence in Kansas City is a public health epidemic. It's the pandemic with the gun," Baker said. "We cannot arrest our way out of this."
The Kansas City Health Department is one of the groups taking part in the new four-pillar plan.
"Cutting the health department actually hurts public safety, too," Lucas said.
Baker said that with funding for the community groups and a partnership with the health department, she believes the city can tackle crime.
"I believe in this city, I believe in the people who live here and I believe in this community," she said.
Lucas shared a list of items he believes will help measure the success of the plan down the road, including improvements in clearance rates for both fatal and non-fatal shootings, improvements in citizen satisfaction survey results, an increase in the number of individuals connected with services, a decrease in crime recidivism and an increase in the number of witnesses willing to collaborate with law enforcement.
Smith released a blog post on Wednesday morning detailing the potential effects of budget cuts to KCPD as COVID-19 takes a toll on the city budget.
In the post, Smith outlined many of the areas that would take hits — including community engagement and enforcement, which are key components to the crime prevention plan.
Lucas said that the city has found budget overlaps where cuts can be made and not affect staffing or programs.
"I have every belief in our community that we can improve these issues," Lucas said during the press conference.
However, some in the community are skeptical of this new plan, citing a lack of trust between them and the police department.
"If you want to establish trust you first have integrity to tell the truth, but I don’t think they have the capability," community activist Sheryl Ferguson said.
"It's very difficult to talk about establishing trust when we have already seen that our issues, our concerns, our complaints are falling on deaf ears," community activist Ky Williams added.
The plan is a culmination of nearly 12 months of work with KCPD, the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office, the Kansas City Health Department, community organizations and federal law enforcement, according to the mayor's office.