KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's been a deadly year so far in Kansas City, Missouri.
Less than two months into the year, 19 people have been killed in the city, primarily as a result of gun violence.
A new group, informally called the Violence Response Team, is forming to help combat this issue. The group is collaborating with the Aim4Peace program and concerned members of the community, mental health professionals and clergy.
"Kansas City doesn't know how to resolve its conflicts without violence," Aim4Peace program manager Rashid Junaid said.
Response team members will be responsible for going out, on a rotating basis, to a violent crime scene to offer prayer, encouragement and support and to help connect impacted family and community members with essential services.
"We continue to have a rise in violent crime in our community, and it's something that we feel strongly about," said Cassandra Wainright, president of the Concerned Clergy Coalition of Kansas City.
When a homicide occurs in the city, team members will go to the scene and try to comfort family members and offer support.
"We want to be able to reach and touch the community in a way that's from a spiritual perspective, lets them know that people do care," Wainright said.
On Feb. 20, there had been 19 homicides in Kansas City, compared with 14 at this time in 2018; 16 in 2017; and 17 in 2016. Even more alarming, 10 homicide victims were between the ages of 17 and 24 so far this year.
"It's heartbreaking to know that our young people's lives are being taken. Human life is actually devalued in our city," Wainright said.
Kansas City's Violent Program Coordinator Kamisha Stanton said groups like the response team can work to combat crime.
"They can access people in ways that we can't as community leaders, and so it's great that they decided to come together as a group," Stanton said.
But to prevent crime among youth, groups should look to young people on how to stop it.
"We need to have the youth there, to have their voice present," Stanton said.
While there are several violence prevention groups throughout the city, Stanton stressed the importance of watching out for crime, even just on a street or neighborhood.
"Neighborhood groups make huge differences, so when you look at the decrease in violence in communities, strong neighborhood coalitions are what are extremely present in those," Stanton said. "Community watch associations and things like that can make a huge difference."
The response team is currently looking for new members. The team will be hosting a special training from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Calvary Community Wellness Center at 3002 Holmes St.