Friday, April 11, 2014

Twelve roadway shootings are now linked, and reward increases to $10,000


Police now have positively linked 12 shooting incidents that have taken place recently on roadways around the metropolitan area. No new similar shootings have taken place since April 6.

Additionally, the reward for information leading to an arrest in the incidents has increased to up to $10,000, thanks to additional funds from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The number of reports of recent roadway shootings continues to fluctuate as police investigate additional incidents and rule out others. Police announced Monday a pattern in which cars have been fired at on area highways and roads. The majority were in Kansas City, but others took place in Blue Springs, Lee’s Summit and Leawood. Three people have been hit with bullets, and their injuries were not life-threatening.

Investigators are not releasing any suspect or suspect vehicle information because they do not want to provide misinformation, nor do they want the public to focus too closely on a specific type of vehicle or person. Investigators do not want to rule out any possibilities.

Officers are increasing their presence in the areas of the shootings. Motorists should remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious activity by calling 911. The sooner police are notified, the higher the probability they can apprehend the suspect(s).

Kansas City Police are very appreciative of the assistance from their partners from other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

But with all the investigative manpower and technology being used, tips from the public remain one of the best resources in solving these crimes. The aforementioned reward of up to $10,000 now is available for information leading to an arrest in this case, thanks to the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers, FBI and ATF. Anyone with information should call 816-474-TIPS (8477). Tips also may be submitted electronically, or by texting TIP452 and your information to 274637 (CRIMES). All information is anonymous.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Reported incidents of vehicles shot on area roadways fluctuate as investigation continues


The number of reports of recent roadway shootings continues to fluctuate as police investigate additional incidents and rule out others. No new shootings have been reported since Sunday night, April 6.

Police announced Monday that there had been 13 incidents between March 8 and April 6 of cars being fired at on area highways and roads, 10 of which have occurred in Kansas City, Mo. The others took place in Blue Springs, Lee’s Summit and Leawood. Three people have been hit with bullets, and their injuries were not life-threatening.

After police released this information, several more people came forward to report incidents that may be part of the pattern. Meanwhile, investigators may rule out other incidents as not being connected. Additionally, analysts are looking back at calls of shots fired on area roadways that took place prior to March 8 to see if any more may be related. Therefore, the number of incidents remains in flux.

Police have linked several of the shootings but are not releasing by what means to protect the integrity of the investigation. Investigators are not releasing any suspect or suspect vehicle information. Victims and witnesses have provided inconsistent statements, so police do not want to provide misinformation, nor do they want the public to focus too closely on a specific type of vehicle or person. Investigators do not want to rule out any possibilities.

Officers are increasing their presence in the areas of the shootings. Motorists should remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious activity by calling 911. The sooner police are notified, the higher the probability they can apprehend the suspect(s).

Kansas City Police are very appreciative of the assistance their partners from other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

A reward of up to $7,000 now is available for information leading to an arrest in this case, thanks to the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Anyone with information should call 816-474-TIPS (8477). Tips also may be submitted electronically at, or by texting TIP452 and your information to 274637 (CRIMES). All information is anonymous.

As of 11 a.m. today, April 9, Crime Stoppers has received 28 tips related to this case.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Police announce changes to combat violent crime


The Kansas City Missouri Police Department has made numerous changes recently to combat violent crime.

Chief Darryl Forté has moved more than 40 people from units across the department into the Violent Crimes Division to reduce violent crime and hold accountable those who perpetrate it. The changes are designed to build community relationships, provide more intelligence and information about those who commit violent crimes, increase the arrest and prosecution of prolific criminals, predict and prevent violent crime, and increase departmental communication and efficiency.

The Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA), which also recently moved under the Violent Crimes Division, is working with patrol officers and detectives from throughout the department to ramp up its efforts to identify criminals and the groups or gangs with which they associate. Quarterly, NoVA calls in members of these groups and notifies them that if a violent act takes place among their associates, the full force of law enforcement will be on the members of their group. At their last quarterly meeting, police identified several hundred people involved in violent criminal activity in more than 35 groups.

Chief Forté has assigned 28 uniformed personnel to the Violent Crime Enforcement Unit (formerly known as the Area Command Unit), another new part of the Violent Crimes Division. This is the first time in memory such a large contingent of uniformed personnel has been moved to combat violent crime in an investigative element. This unit serves as the Violent Crime Division’s enforcement arm. Should an act of violence take place involving one of the identified groups, Violent Crime Enforcement Unit officers will enhance their enforcement activities against that group’s members with everything from minor ordinance violations to federal cases. This already took place in the first quarter of 2014 when a homicide occurred within one of the identified criminal groups. Violent Crime Enforcement Unit officers, along with the Narcotics and Vice Division and their federal partners, effectively dismantled the group by arresting its members on multiple federal firearms and narcotics trafficking charges.

The Fugitive Apprehension and Arraignment Unit also moved under the Violent Crimes Enforcement Unit so all elements tracking down violent criminals will be in the same chain of command.

A new Violent Crime Administrative Squad within the Enforcement Unit will handle the majority of federal cases regarding felons in possession of firearms and other weapons violations. The Robbery Unit previously handled those cases. This will lighten the Robbery Unit’s caseload, allowing for more thorough robbery investigations. Likewise, detectives on the Administrative Squad will be able to dig deeper into federal firearm violation cases to uncover possible trafficking rings and the violent crime that surrounds them.

On the advice of experts in academia and law enforcement, Chief Forté and Violent Crimes Division Major Ronald Fletcher also have created a Violent Crimes Intelligence Squad. Incorporating experienced gang, homicide and narcotics detectives, this group will work openly (not under-cover) to gather information from the community and patrol officers about gang/group feuds, retaliations and trends. With the help of the Law Enforcement Resource Center, this information will be analyzed and distributed department-wide from homicide detectives to street-level officers. The goal is to prevent violent crimes among gangs and groups before it takes place.

KC NoVA also has provided numerous social services to those who seek a way out of the criminal lifestyle. The people with whom they’ve worked have been identified as being 100 times more likely to be a murder victim than the average Kansas City resident. KC NoVA’s Social Services component has assessed 98 clients as of March 21, 2014. In partnership with numerous community resources, they have provided 29 clients with substance abuse treatment, 18 with employment assistance, 14 with housing services and many others with services ranging from anger management courses to mental health treatment. Many clients cannot read or write, and 10 have received literacy and education assistance.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Legislative remedies are needed to address gun violence

The below, which I wrote with Mayor Sly James, also is published as an As I See It column in today's Kansas City Star:

We often are asked what we’re doing to combat violent crime, and why we seem to have more than other cities of similar size. We think that is a fair question and want to assure the community that we are doing everything in our power to stop the bloodshed.  Our long-term efforts range from the Turn the Page KC third grade reading initiative, to the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KCNoVA), a program with local, state and federal partners that targets the city’s most violent offenders for aggressive prosecution and offers minor offenders social services so they can change their ways.

But there are things beyond our power that would significantly reduce violent crime in Kansas City. We stand united in our conviction that something must be done to address the issue of illegal guns. Of the 106 homicides in our city last year, 90 were committed with a handgun. We can’t alleviate the issue of gun violence until we address the issue of people who have guns that shouldn’t, and that is something that must be done in the Missouri Legislature.  To that end, we applaud the efforts of Representative Brandon Ellington, who filed House Bill 2159 last week.

House Bill 2159 addresses two badly needed legislative remedies that have proven remarkably effective in reducing gun violence in other cities nationwide: universal background checks and mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns. These provisions promote responsible gun ownership by law-abiding residents while preventing firearms from falling into the hands of those who would use them to hurt or kill others.

Did you know that currently either of us could meet you in a parking lot and legally sell you a gun with no record of the transaction and no background check required at all? Or you could go to a gun show and do the very same? A study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research published in last month’s Journal of Urban Health found the 2007 repeal of the Missouri law requiring a background check on all firearm purchases has contributed to an additional 55 to 63 murders each year from 2008 to 2012. We’d venture to say most of those occurred in Kansas City and St. Louis (another city plagued by gun violence disproportional to its population). There is a clear correlation, and states that have universal background checks have fewer homicides. It just makes sense. Multiple studies have shown between 85 and 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks, including 74 percent of National Rifle Association members.

Mandatory reporting of lost or stolen firearms is another tool that could reduce our city’s gun violence. This deters gun trafficking and can help solve crimes. Police may trace a gun used in a crime to its original owner, but that person can claim it was stolen to hide his or her involvement in the crime or in a gun trafficking scheme. 

Chicago implemented a mandatory stolen firearm reporting law last year and watched its previously record-breaking homicide numbers plummet to the lowest level in 50 years.

Legislation like this would do so much to make Missouri’s metropolitan areas safer.

A large focus of legislative efforts pertaining to guns has been the unconstitutional Senate Bill 613. That bill would severely undermine the ability to solve and prevent crimes and seeks to nullify all federal gun laws in Missouri. Although the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause prevents this, and it was vetoed last year, legislators continue to push it through with little concern for the dangerous impact it will have on cities. A provision of SB 613 would make it a crime for anyone to enforce federal gun laws. This would essentially require Kansas City Police to arrest the FBI, ATF and other federal agents with whom they work every day. This legislation would destroy KC NoVA. It could stop the federal prosecution of felons in possession of firearms, which has put so many violent offenders behind bars over the years. It would halt the investigation and prosecution of hundreds of cases, leaving violent criminals on the streets. We cannot emphasize enough how damaging and dangerous this law would be if passed, and we urge residents to reach out to their legislators to ask them to stop it and support House Bill 2159 instead.

We vow to work together to reduce gun violence in Kansas City. But we need the help of the Missouri Legislature to make a significant impact on the safety of our community.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cost cutting and consolidation measures

I take seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of tax-payer dollars. That’s why we are moving to consolidate audit services with the City’s Audit Department. Our Internal Audit Unit manager position was eliminated today, and the three officers assigned to that unit will be moved to other places on the department. This unit has done an admirable job through the years of raising accountability and improving our department’s efficiency. We are facing a $5.5 million deficit in this current fiscal year. The vast majority of our costs are for pay and benefits, so there are limited opportunities for cost cutting.

Consolidating audit services was an obvious choice. The City Auditor’s Office has worked with us on many occasions, providing an independent review and oversight of our operations. I trust they will be able to continue to do so. 

Additionally, I eliminated a director position over our Victim Support Division. While the Division’s work is very important, it’s a rather small group, and a director-level position was not necessary to oversee it. A sergeant will now take the helm there. And as I wrote earlier, we’re closer than ever before to consolidating detention operations with the City and Jackson County.

I’ve also ordered a review of an efficiency study that was done prior to my tenure as chief. I want to ensure we have taken all the steps possible to run the most streamlined operation we can.

Finally, we have put a hiring freeze on all non-sworn positions.

We are not stagnant. We are constantly looking for opportunities to cut costs, be that in the forms of consolidating, outsourcing or eliminating. But we must do so prudently. Wantonly eliminating critical resources would come at the expense of the city’s safety. I pledge to do the most we can with the funds we have.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Preventing domestic violence in our own families

Did you know that police families are two to four times more likely to experience domestic violence than other American families, according to studies? The nature of our work is stressful on any family. Police work long, odd hours, and they see some of the most disturbing things our society has to offer. But that does not make it OK for an officer to be violent toward his or her spouse or children.

Worse yet, studies of some police departments have found that officers will cover up for their colleagues who have abused a family member, such as not filing a report. It is our job to protect community members, and the family member of a colleague is entitled to just as much protection as anyone else.

Although this is not, to my knowledge, presently an issue at our department, I am very concerned about the well-being of our officers and their families. To ensure domestic violence does not become a problem within the KCPD family, I am requiring all law enforcement members to undergo domestic violence training developed by the Institute for Family Violence Studies at Florida State University. This training is targeted at law enforcement. Some of its goals are: “To support a law enforcement culture that prioritizes prevention efforts and officer/family wellness and also disapproves of officer-committed domestic violence, and to encourage officers to ask for help when they need it before violence occurs.”

As the program states, officers are role models for the communities they serve, and we “must ensure our actions at home are worthy of our oath.” We have taken many steps to reduce and prevent domestic violence city-wide (like the Lethality Assessment Protocol that my predecessor wrote about), and this is another step to do so. Preventing this type of violence begins at home.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

We'll do our part to address Plaza issues; the rest is up to you

When large groups of unruly young people gather on the Country Club Plaza and incite disorder, police are the ones who are called in to resolve the situation. But this is not solely a police issue. It’s a community issue, and we need the support of the community to solve it. We are going to be taking stronger action than before, but all the police work in the world won’t provide safe gathering places and fun activities for teens. Nor can it suddenly convince parents of these young people that their lack of supervision is unacceptable.

First, there is nothing wrong with children younger than 18 enjoying the amenities our city offers. They are as entitled as anyone else to stroll through our entertainment districts. Those young people who are well behaved, appropriately supervised and act within the law are not my concern. It is the few who incite violence, intimidate others, impede traffic and violate other laws who will be the focus of police attention.

We will be assigning additional officers to the Country Club Plaza on upcoming weekends.  Some will be in uniform, and some will be working under-cover. We will enforce ordinance violations. This means we will arrest and detain juveniles who are breaking the law. No longer will we give numerous warnings. Young people breaking the law will be cited and apprehended, and their parents or guardians must come to our holding area in order for them to be released from custody.  Their parents need to know about their behavior and know that we will be holding them responsible for it. Parents need to know it is unacceptable to let their unsupervised children wander the city.

So expect to see increased numbers of arrests in entertainment districts. At this time, the Country Club Plaza has been the only district at which problems have arisen. If issues pop up elsewhere, we will take the same actions there. 

We are working to address any possible issues at the movie theater, where much of the disorder tends to begin. We also have met with Plaza Security and Highwoods Corporation, which manages the Plaza, to discuss the best approaches for keeping order. Rita Valenciano, a U.S. Department of Justice Conciliation Specialist, will be serving as a mediator between Cinemark Theater, Highwoods and young people to resolve the issues that are arising.

But here’s where the rest of the community comes in. City Councilman John Sharp was correct when he said there are no longer many entertainment outlets for youth in the urban core. We were all teenagers once, and most of us just wanted to go hang out with our friends somewhere on weekends and have fun. Today’s young people want that, too, and we can work together to provide that for them.  Several already are stepping up.

Kansas City Parks and Recreation has agreed to open up the Brush Creek Community Center from 7 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays to give young people an entertainment option. We will provide security there. The KCATA will be providing free bus rides for teens from the Plaza to the Community Center (but not the other way around) for the next two weekends.  Local church leaders also are working on coming up with activities for youth.

This is where we need you. We can lament the disorder and espouse negativity. Or we can do something about it. We’re asking you, businesses and organizations of Kansas City, to step up and provide an alternative for these young people. Would your company sponsor a night of fun for youth? Would your church be willing to organize activities? Would your civic group be able to provide access to a fun and safe place? We’re open to suggestions. A free movie or concert.  Karaoke. A sports tournament. A game night. A dance party. Anything where young people will want to gather with their friends and enjoy themselves. Parks and Recreation is able to provide much of this during the summer, but recent incidents have made it clear these outlets for our city’s young people are needed year-round.

The police department is committed to addressing the issues of young people causing disorder on the Country Club Plaza. We can’t provide other entertainment venues for them, however. But many of you can. Ideally, there would be so many other enticing options for teens that they won’t want to just mull around the Plaza.

I pledge to do whatever we can from a public safety perspective to make the Plaza a safe and enjoyable destination for everyone. The rest is up to you.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Unit has assisted 1,058 violent crime victims

Our Victim Assistance Unit continues to quietly work helping those affected by violent crimes. Since they began operations five months ago, they have reached out to 1,058 victims of aggravated assault or robbery.

The detectives assigned to the unit have offered the victims crisis intervention, criminal justice information and referrals to community services for needs directly resulting from the crime such as shelter, food, clothing, grief and trauma counseling. By far, the most requested service from these victims has been trauma counseling.

While they survived the crimes committed against them, many of these victims are left with severe emotional (as well as physical) scars. These can manifest into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, panic attacks, sleeplessness and more. Trauma counseling is a very specialized discipline that helps victims overcome this fearsome thing that has happened to them.

We have long offered these referral services to the loved ones of homicide victims and domestic violence victims. But just in the last few months, we have expanded that to victims of aggravated assault and robbery.

We hope this outreach encourages trust of law enforcement and prevents retaliation by encouraging victims to work within the criminal justice system. For too long, too many of these victims chose not to cooperate with investigation or prosecution of their case because they wanted to seek some form of justice themselves. But anecdotally, we’re seeing cooperation increase. One of our Victim Assistance Unit detectives recently built a solid rapport with a woman who said she changed her mind and would cooperate with the investigation into her case. I expect to see more and more of this in the future. 

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Friday, February 7, 2014

TIPS Hotline reward doubles to up to $2,000

If you haven’t already heard, I’m very happy to share the news that anonymous tipsters can now be rewarded with up to $2,000 for submitting information that leads to an arrest in a felony crime.

Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers announced this change last week. Since the organization’s founding in 1982, the largest amount a tipster could receive was $1,000. (Supplemental rewards are still available. This is when a victim’s family or friends raise money for additional reward money in their loved one’s case.)

Ideally, everyone would tell police any information they have about a crime. But many people in our community don’t do that. Our department is working to build the trust to open up the lines of communication. But there are some who are genuinely scared of the repercussions they might face from their social circle if they’re seen providing information to police. That’s where the TIPS Hotline, 816-474-TIPS, is so valuable. It allows residents to submit information anonymously.

Tipsters are issued a code number when they first call in with a tip (or when they submit it by text message or online). They call back with their code number to see whether their tip has led to an arrest, and if so, they are issued the reward in cash. Then entire process is anonymous.

The reward money provides a good incentive to those who might otherwise be reluctant to call. And now there’s double the incentive. I’d like to thank the generous donors who support Crime Stoppers. They have made this $2,000 reward possible. Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers has cleared more than 24,070 felony cases in their three-plus decades, including 609 homicides. They’ve paid out more than $1.27 million in rewards. The TIPS Hotline is an invaluable resource for our detectives, and I look forward to the doubled amount of reward money bringing in even more tips.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Police are moving forward with joining regional detention facility

When I was named Chief of Police in 2011, part of my strategic plan included closing the Headquarters Detention Unit. We now are closer than ever before to improving the environment for our detainees. I am very appreciative of the efforts of those at the City and at the Jackson County Detention Center in helping us reach this much-needed change. We hope to soon better accommodate those who have to be detained. We also will continue to seek opportunities to increase efficiencies as well as improve how we treat others.

Many pieces of the puzzle – everything from information technology to inmate transport issues – have had to come together  to make this consolidation happen, but we are very close to finalizing everything and moving forward with a city-wide detention center at 13th and Locust.

During the recession, we closed the holding facilities at our patrol division stations because of reduced staffing and required all arrests to be booked at Headquarters. We now are going to reopen several of those, and detention officers will be reassigned there. Reopening these station holding cells is more convenient for officers and allows those who have committed lesser offenses to bond out. That frees up space at the main detention facility.

The regional jail will be a better environment for those who are detained. Our jail has been nearly the same since it was built in 1938. It has received no significant upgrades, and space has been extremely tight. Because it has not been upgraded, it never was required to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-compliant. It has been secure and functional, but it does not meet the needs of modern detention facilities. Joining with the City and Jackson County on a regional jail will provide that, as well as ADA compliance. Inmates also will receive services they don’t in our jail. All of them will be screened by a social worker for everything from substance abuse to mental illness problems. The social worker will be able to connect them with services that can assist them and perhaps even remove them from a criminal lifestyle. Inmates also will have 24/7 access to care by a licensed nurse. Because of funding, we only can provide that for 8 to 10 hours a day at our jail.

Joining a regional detention center also will eliminate redundancies in the booking and arraignment processes. Our jail never was intended to house inmates for more than 24 hours, so when inmates don’t make bond, they currently must be transferred to the City/County detention center. This causes them to have to be rebooked all over again at that facility.

I appreciate all the hard work on the part of our staff and that of the City’s and County’s to make this regional detention facility a reality. I also cannot say enough to commend our current Detention Unit staff. They often are short-staffed and do the best they can with an outdated facility. They spend their days dealing with the most belligerent and violent people in Kansas City, and they do it with respect and professionalism. They are about to undergo big changes, and I appreciate their willingness and openness.

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