With Kansas City’s rising homicide rates, community leaders and local law enforcement are searching for ways to address the crisis.
Just a few weeks before a deadly Memorial Day weekend, Kansas City Police Department Chief Stacy Graves had had announced a new violent crime reduction initiative. The plan is meant to ally the KCPD, county prosecutors, federal authorities and other city agencies in an effort to combat the violent crime wave. Unfortunately, just a few weeks later, Graves found herself in the difficult position of addressing a string of homicides that occurred over the three-day holiday weekend.
In a press conference on the heels of a weekend that is supposed to be marked by picnics and barbecues, Graves said, “Seven families [in] our city have been changed forever. This is a call for action. Our department will continue to show up, but we need the community.”
With collaboration in mind, Jackson County sheriff Darryl Forté decided to answer that call to action and surprised many by offering additional patrols and investigative help to the KCPD.
Forté announced his support at a Jackson County Legislature meeting, saying, “Most of the homicides that occur in Kansas City happen in eastern Kansas City, right next to Blue Summit. So we don’t want that creeping over in our area.”
The KCPD East Patrol, which covers eastern KC, has had the highest number of reported homicides for the past decade, according to Kansas City crime statistics, but numbers across the board have risen in recent years.
This has been a particularly violent year for Kansas City, with over a hundred killings already. Last year, 2022, was the second-deadliest year on record with one hundred and seventy-one homicides, but at this rate, 2023 could surpass those numbers.
“I’ve been to over thirty-five homicide scenes that I’ve counted this year,” Forté tells Kansas City. “I can’t sit by as the chief law enforcement officer for the county and not do something about the slow-motion mass murder.”
As a lifelong Kansas-citian, Forté’s concern comes from a genuine place. He believes that his four-decade-long law enforcement career will be useful in aiding this issue. He promises he has a plan and ensures that there are things the sheriff’s office can do without diverting resources from Jackson County.
He believes that changing the command structure by adding a colonel’s position will help. “[We’re] trying to structure it so we can put the right people in place that have a connection with Kansas City,” Forté says.
It may be a few years before the community can see results from both Fortés efforts and Grave’s violent crime reduction plan. In the meantime, one of Forté’s goals is to rebuild relationships with the community. “We have to figure out a way to bring law enforcement and segments of the community together when there’s not confrontation,” he says.