Strategies focussing on countering violence in Kansas City

Kansas City has consolidated its position as one of the cities with most violent crime among populations of its size in the United States (22 homicides, 2,500 crimes with violence and 1,645 thefts with violence for each 100,000 inhabitants). At the beginning of this decade, the Police Department received funding from the Justice Department to develop innovative strategies to combat violent crime. This financial support was used to apply two different and complementary strategies.

mo_-_kansas_city_policeFirst of all, they tried the Philadelphia foot patrol experiment from 2009. The experiment involved patrols using novice police officers in four specific areas identified as violent crime black spots. These officers were exempt from responding to any kind of service call. They did this for 90 days. Global results were positive: a 26% reduction in violent crime, without any noteworthy moving around. However, the reduction was not consistent over this period of time. Over the first six weeks, the drop in violent crime was 55%, whereas during the following weeks this trend did not continue as there was even a rise in crime. These results encourage the need for an insight into the existence of a period involving the expiry of the preventive capacity of foot patrols (a factor which Koper had previously worked on and which the Philadelphia experiment had also pointed out).

Later, in 2013 and 2014, the Police Department, along with the dean of the university, the district attorney, the town hall, the Probation office, an FBI representative and members of the town hall social services (united as a group called Alliance of Kansas City against Violence), applied a new strategy aimed at deterring potential violent criminals. The work procedure was the following:

  • Identify a specific violent crime area.
  • Create a work group to represent the different institutions involved.
  • Carry out research, with police support, to identify potential delinquents.
  • Warn possible offenders of the determination to respond to any criminal activity with firmness.
  • Offer support services (social) for whoever may need them.
  • Maintain a frequent and fluid line of communication to ensure that they know that they are being closely monitored.

The results of this second strategy were positive as far as homicides were concerned (a decrease of 26.5%) and quite insignificant in the case of assault (a 5% decrease). With time, the benefits faded, just as they did in the case of foot patrols.

The author of the article makes the following recommendations for the future:

  • Those in command must consider the importance of communication between the different actors as a vital prerequisite to obtain the desired results.
  • It is necessary to be clear about the time required for foot patrols and free these officers of other tasks.
  • Police on the beat must understand what their main role is: they must be seen and make contact with people.
  • Police on the beat must convey a double message with clarity:
    • Make hypothetical offenders aware of the fact that they are being watched.
    • Inform them that they are working with agencies which are willing to help them if they refrain from criminal activity.

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