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Partner groups optimistic for Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department's new violent crime initiative

Police chief announced community effort last week
Posted at 6:59 AM, May 23, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department will provide an update to the Board of Police Commissioners Tuesday morning about violent crime initiatives.

The update comes one week after the department announced a new program to prevent violence, but also after five people were killed in the city Sunday and Monday.

“When young people die from gun violence it is not OK, it is never OK. We have to work together to find solutions,” said Annette Lantz-Simmons, executive director of the Center for Conflict Resolution.

Her organization is one of many community group actively working toward solutions. It is involved in the new initiative Police Chief Stacey Graves announced May 17.

Lantz-Simmons said the new program gives organizations like hers a bigger voice at the table to collaborate with police, prosecutors and other organizations. She said meetings between these groups are happening more frequently and are more productive, and the groups are open to new ideas and approaches.

“People, the nonprofits, the neighborhoods are talking in ways we never have before - and it’s pretty exciting - and I think it will eventually make a difference, but it’s not overnight,” Lantz-Simmons said.

The Ad Hoc Group Against Crime is another partner. President Damon Daniel believes the city needs alternatives to traditional anti-violence efforts.

“We have young people who are coming up in trauma,” Daniel said. “We have to find better way to get through this trauma.”

Ad Hoc is expanding its staff to better serve the community.

Lantz-Simmons at Center for Conflict Resolution said she hopes her nonprofit’s methods of restorative justice gains traction and that she believes teaching skills to solve arguments peacefully will prevent violence. Her staff currently trains students, teachers, church groups, people on parole and probation and many more how to resolve conflicts.

Her goal is to work with prosecutors and correctional facilities to teach the people who do harm skills instead of focusing on punishing them.

“Our culture is very ingrained in punishment, and guess what, that’s not working," Lantz-Simmons said. "When we can, getting people to a place where they’re actually looking at themselves, gaining skills and behaving differently is what we’re here to try and do.”

The initiative from KCPD also focuses on quality-of-life issues, with the Public Works Department picking up litter and ensuring street lights function properly, among other goals.