Kansas City needs to to invest more money and resources into violence prevention and reduction, local leaders said after a rash of shootings and homicides this week.
On Wednesday alone, three separate shootings left two people dead and three others injured, including teenagers, across the metro area.
“We must invest our money in organizations that serve those impacted by violence,” said Damon Daniel, president of the AdHoc Group Against Crime. “If we invest in those organizations, those who are hurting from the pain of having buried a loved one to violence, may find a pathway toward healing.”
Councilwoman Melissa Robinson echoed those concerns Thursday. She has frequently urged city leaders to increase funding for conflict resolution and violence reduction initiatives.
Robinson, who represents the 3rd District, wants to dedicate 1% of the annual city’s operating budget to crime prevention efforts to address the root causes of violence. The city currently spends under $2 million annually on those efforts.
The additional money would generate about $5.7 million toward crime reduction efforts.
The violence on Wednesday began about 4 p.m., when three people were shot at Truman Road near the intersection with Benton Boulevard. Police called to the scene found two women and one man wounded.
Two hours later, an 18-year-old was shot by an older man outside of an apartment in the 5900 block of 136th Street in Grandview. Police say the teenager and the man were fighting before the shooting. The shooter fled before police arrived.
Then at about 9 p.m., police were called to an area near the intersection of 37th Street and Wayne Avenue in the Ivanhoe neighborhood where they found Michael K. Parks, 17, fatally shot.
Since the beginning of October, there have been eight homicides reported in Kansas City. Those killings include a triple homicide that occurred Oct. 2 near the intersection of 27th Street and Spruce Avenue.
In a message posted on Twitter Mayor Quinton Lucas voiced his concern and his frustration about the recent uptick in gun violence: “Thinking of the families impacted by violence in recent days.”
Lucas continued: “A triple shooting and an additional murder--mid-week in October and our 4th triple shooting this month--are things we should never get accustomed to. This is why we push for progress.”
Others in the community expressed similar concern and outrage.
“This is a community problem,” said Rosilyn Temple, founder and executive director with KC Mothers In Charge, an outreach and anti-violence group. “It starts in the home and violence is generational. It’s our own people, our own family members and families are steadily allowing this to happen.”
Police said Thursday that overall violent crime and the number of homicides are down compared to a year ago, when Kansas City saw a record 154 killings.
As of Monday, police said there were 28 nonfatal shootings. So far this year, Kansas City police reported 415 nonfatal shootings.
There were 512 nonfatal shootings reported during the same period a year ago.
“We were down in violent crime but it doesn’t seem that way because there’s still 121 murders,” Capt. Leslie Foreman, a police spokeswoman said Thursday. “That’s way too many.”
“Our hearts go out to this community, to the families and the people who are impacted day in and day out who get these phone calls and whose life changes forever,” Foreman said.
Young victims, young suspects
A majority of the city’s homicides and non fatal shootings are concentrated in East, Central and now Metro patrol, located in the urban core, Daniel said.
And 30% of victims are under 24-years old and 26% of suspects are in the same age group.
“Violence has left its mark on hundreds, if not thousands of Kansas City families,” Daniel said. “This could be a sign that violence has carried on within generations of families.”
“It has become all too common to meet a grandmother, mother and child for which each can name one person that has been shot or killed,” he said.
Elected officials, civic and business leaders to need to invest in the lives of the city’s youth by exposing them to better educational and economic opportunities.
Youth should be taught how to resolve conflict without violence, Daniel said.
Robinson said the vast majority of the homicides each year have occurred in the East and Central patrol divisions. She said she is grateful that Lucas and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker created the KC Community Safety Partnership, a multi-agency collaboration to reduce violence. The effort highlights prevention, intervention, enforcement and building trust between community and law enforcement.
But the group has no dedicated funding source.
“It just really begs the question, do we really care about the increase in violent crime?” Robinson said. “Is our only passionate point is to keep police funding intact?”
“There isn’t the level of commitment or a concern for what are our daily conditions,” she said.
Witnesses are needed
One of the killings this week occurred near the intersection of 37th Street and Wayne Avenue in the Ivanhoe neighborhood. Police found Michael K. Parks, 17, fatally shot. His killer remains at large.
Temple said she grew up in the same neighborhood where the killing occurred. She remembered how residents looked out for each other and were not afraid to call police when a crime occurred.
“But now people don’t come out, they say it’s not my business,” she said. “But in my old neighborhood people came out and we need to see more of that now.”
Homicide investigators frequently have difficulty solving homicides because witnesses are unwilling to come forward with information, Foreman said.
“It’s like always, we do what we do, we show up, we work it, we stay active, we do everything we can,” Foreman said. “But so often we need the public’s help and the public does a good job sometimes of helping us out but there are cases, that if you take a look at the past week where we don’t have any leads or we need some help.”
Temple said residents must be willing to cooperate with police to ensure that those responsible for the violence are held accountable.
“We have to start turning people in when they commit these crimes,” Temple said.