Monday, September 15, 2014

Crime continues to trend downward in Kansas City



The statistics that will be presented to our Board of Police Commissioners tomorrow continue to show a significant decrease in crime compared to last year. These are above and have been certified by the state of Missouri for submission to the FBI (that process takes some time, which is why these numbers are through the end of July).

As of this morning, homicides are down by 31.5 percent compared to last year. In fact, this is the first significant reduction in homicides in the last 50 years. There are many things to which I could credit this, and I don’t claim to know all the reasons, but some of them are increased community cooperation with police, more neighborhoods that are refusing to tolerate crime, the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA), and the work our officers are doing every day to build trust and fight crime.

Take, for example, the work of our Violent Crimes Enforcement Unit. They are the enforcement arm of KC NoVA. Their job is to go after those who are at the nexus of violent criminal networks. So far this year, they have recovered 119 guns that were possessed illegally. They’ve also made 38 arrests for felons in possession of firearms (which carries a minimum federal prison sentence of five years with no parole) and 16 arrests for other federal firearm violations. They’ve also arrested 322 people wanted on state-level warrants and another 188 who were under investigation for serious (usually violent) crimes.

Crime is down in Kansas City, but it certainly is not eliminated. We continue to rely on the community to assist us. This assistance comes in any number of ways – from mentoring at-risk children to calling the TIPS Hotline. Continued efforts like those will lead to further crime reductions and safer neighborhoods.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reflecting on Sept. 11 and the importance of first responder relationships

I’m sure everyone who is reading this can remember where they were and what they were doing 13 years ago today. I was on the fifth floor of Headquarters serving as acting deputy chief of the Patrol Bureau because the regular deputy chief was on vacation that week. I was looking out the window when the first crash happened. There was a TV in my office, and I looked over and saw it.

There is so much to remember and reflect upon today, but one thing that keeps crossing my mind is how vital the relationships between first responders are. Police officers and firefighters were the ones rushing into the Twin Towers that day when everyone else was rushing away from them. They worked together to get thousands of people to safety. Sadly, hundreds of first responders lost their lives in their attempts to save the lives of others.

While Kansas City never has experienced anything near the scope of those attacks (and I pray we never will), our police officers, firefighters and paramedics enter dangerous situations all the time, often side by side. We are blessed to have two groups of professionals who work so well together in Kansas City.

Dozens and dozens of times each day, KCPD and KCFD join up to serve the people of Kansas City – at car wrecks, when someone has been assaulted, medical emergencies, arsons and so many more. A few weeks ago, we conducted joint active shooter training at City Hall. We know that both our departments would be called upon in such an emergency, and we are fortunate that we enjoy such a good relationship and can offer such a quick and professional response. I thank the members of both departments for all they do for the community.

Off the clock, there are many friendships and much camaraderie between members of our agencies. We donate to each other’s charitable causes and have supported each other through difficult budget times. Firefighters have even come to the aid of our officers when they were being assaulted. We have a solid relationship, and we are always ready to work for the good of the people of Kansas City.

Speaking of the public, we need you to continue to assist us. While today reminds me of the importance of first responders, it’s also a reminder that we must remain vigilant. Always be aware of your surroundings, and report any suspicious behavior you may see. The Kansas City Terrorism Early Warning Center’s web site offers some tips on what to look for. We appreciate your help in keeping our community safe.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Senate Bill 656 makes fighting violent crime in Kansas City more difficult

This morning I joined Mayor Sly James, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Steven Green and others to speak out about the Missouri Legislature's attempt to override the veto of Senate Bill 656. We met in front of the mayor's childhood home at 44th and Montgall. My grandmother lived just around the corner, and she used to walk me to kindergarten down the street. It was a great neighborhood in which to grow up, and we'd like to make it that way again. This morning, Mayor James said SB 656 will only make our jobs harder. I'm proud of the mayor, prosecutor and everyone else for standing up to this bill.

Here are some of my comments from today's press conference:

Reducing violent crime in our city has been my top priority since I became police chief in 2011. This year, we’re beginning to see some real impact from our efforts and the efforts of our partners and the community. Homicides are down by a third compared to where they have been for the past 50 years.

But the fact remains that consistently 80 to 90 percent of murders in this city are perpetrated with guns. Getting those guns out of the hands of people who should not legally possess them is one of our department’s top priorities. Legislation like Senate Bill 656, however, will make our job more difficult.

We need to maintain the freedom to police our city in the way that works best for our residents. Senate Bill 656 would ban any open carry ordinances, which Kansas City enacted at the end of July. An open carry ban works for a densely populated area like our city.

Allowing open carry would increase calls for service to police, which would affect our response time to other emergency calls. Police chiefs and leaders of cities and towns throughout Missouri should be allowed to decide what will most effectively keep their residents safe. Senate Bill 656 does not allow us to do what we believe is in the best interest of Kansas Citians. 

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hot Spot Policing is making a difference

I have written about Hot Spot Policing on this blog before, and I wanted to share with you the impact it has had in the two-plus years we’ve been doing it. At the beginning of this year, we nearly doubled the amount of personnel who work in hot spots, which are the small areas of the city where the most violent crime occurs. Every officer, detective and sergeant on this department not in an under-cover position now works six nights a year in a “hot spot.” Essentially, this means there is an extra squad of officers in East, Central and Metro Patrol divisions during their busiest nights every week. In the first half of this year, hot spot personnel worked 7,216 hours. That’s 7,216 hours of additional police service in a six-month period for the residents of our city who are most affected by violent crime, and all of that came from our existing resources.

In 2012, 50 percent of all the city’s homicides occurred in two of our four hot spots. For years, all four areas disproportionately contributed to the number of murders in our city. As of this writing, two of the four hot spots have had zero homicides this year. That is remarkable, and it speaks to the hard work of our officers, as well as the hard work of the community. Overall, Kansas City is down by 24 homicides compared to this date last year.

In the first half of 2012, Hot Spot officers made an impressive amount of positive contacts with residents. Some played football with children, and others helped the victim of a domestic violence stabbing. Some assisted with juvenile issues on the Country Club Plaza and some arrested a man with a fully loaded handgun on drug possession charges right before he walked into a store. Two homicide detectives arrested a robbery suspect. In February, A sergeant attended one of our weekly intelligence-sharing meetings and learned about a robbery pattern along Main Street. That same day, two officers from our Research and Development Division were working hot spots and responded to a robbery call at Pancho’s at 3540 Main. They learned the suspect had likely gone to the 3700 block of Warwick. They waited outside in the cold and snow for an hour until they saw the suspect come out the back door of an apartment building, and he was apprehended. Further investigation found he was the person responsible for the other Main Street robberies.

I greatly appreciate the work our officers, detectives and sergeants are doing in hot spots, as well as the community response to their work. Let’s keep working together so that there someday may be no crime hot spots at all in Kansas City.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jackson County Prosecutor's Office gets justice for victims and families


Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and her staff have brought justice to hundreds of victims and families in Kansas City, and I greatly value their partnership.

The Prosecutor’s office works with our detectives and officers on a daily basis to hold accountable those who commit crimes, especially violent crimes. Jackson County sends more killers to prison than any other county in Missouri. From 2009-2013, nearly 200 defendants went to prison for manslaughter and murder. That is far more than even St. Louis.

And when someone goes to prison for a violent crime in Jackson County, the state’s own sentencing report data shows they go for a longer time than violent offenders in rural and suburban counties.

In addition to ensuring that those who commit crimes receive the appropriate punishments, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office also is partnering with the community and our department to prevent violent crime before it happens. They have been a key component of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA). This focused-deterrence program targets those at the epicenters of criminal networks for aggressive police enforcement and prosecution. Meanwhile, it offers services and resources to those on the fringes of criminal networks who want to seek out a new path away from a life of crime. It’s showing promising results: homicides in Kansas City are down by a third from year-to-date totals in the previous five years.

As I’ve said many times, the criminal justice system needs the support of the community to make our community safe. More violent offenders end up in prison when we work together.

I have confidence in Jean Peters Baker and her staff to take on the toughest cases and see that justice is served in our community. 

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Come see the Police Athletic League under the lights of Arrowhead Stadium

I’ve written about the amazing things our Police Athletic League does for urban-core youth on a number of occasions, and this Thursday, they’re giving some of them an amazing opportunity they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

The PAL Predators tackle football team will play at halftime of the Kansas City Chiefs pre-season game at Arrowhead Stadium this Thursday, Aug. 7. The team will be made up of 10- to 12-year old boys, most of whom are playing tackle football for the first time. The PAL team is part of KC United, a sports initiative involving young people from all over the metro area. The goal of KC United is for leaders and mentors throughout the city to use sports to reach young people, part of the same philosophy used at PAL.

The Chiefs’ halftime game was set up by KC United to provide a few of the boys in the program a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stand on the field at Arrowhead Stadium. Most of the players in the PAL football program have never been to Arrowhead, so actually playing on the field will be an experience they’ll always remember.

The PAL football program is in its third year of operation. Last year, more than 15 teams played at the PAL Center at 1801 White Ave., and the Center hosted many games. The championship games for four separate age divisions were played under the lights at the PAL field, which was a first for most of the young people in the program. The PAL eighth-grade team last year was undefeated, and the starting quarterback from last year's team is actually starting at quarterback for a local high school team this year as a freshman.

Through generous donations from local businesses and individuals, the PAL field is fully irrigated with a sprinkler system, has stadium lights and is professionally maintained by a local landscaping company. There is a new kitchen/concession area being built at the PAL Center, with most of the new equipment having been donated. The result is the kids are able to play at a very first-rate facility, and teams come in from all over the metro area to play on the PAL field.

Currently, the PAL football program has two tackle football teams, more than a dozen volunteer coaches and approximately 60 players involved. The program has doubled in size from last year, and the quality and caliber of the program is growing each year.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Open carry ordinance is wise

Today, the City Council wisely approved an ordinance prohibiting the open carry of a firearm. My role as Chief of Police is to ensure that residents feel safe and are safe. Allowing people to carry firearms openly within the city not only will cause residents to feel uncomfortable, it also will increase calls for service for someone being armed. Police cannot respond to these calls casually, and this creates a dangerous situation for all.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Homicides down in first half of 2014

Thirty-four people have been murdered in Kansas City so far in 2014. This is about 30 percent less than at the same time in the last five years. But it is still 34 lives lost senselessly, and we are working to lower that number. Today's Kansas City Star article does a very good job discussing some of our efforts to reduce violent crime. I encourage you to read it. But know that we cannot do any of these things without the support and cooperation of the community. The safety of our city depends on you.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Come join us on Nextdoor


Yesterday, we joined with the City Manager’s and Mayor’s offices to officially launch Nextdoor in Kansas City. Nextdoor is a free and private social network for neighborhoods. On Nextdoor, neighbors create private web sites for their neighborhoods where they can ask questions, get to know one another, and exchange local advice and recommendations. 

Once I heard about it, I immediately recognized the benefit Nextdoor could have to police and community safety. It can serve as a virtual neighborhood watch.

One of my primary goals as police chief has been for our officers to build positive relationships with the residents they serve. Nextdoor provides us the opportunity to augment those existing relationships online while fostering new ones.

We are training more than 80 patrol officers and sergeants to use and manage this system. They will be responsible for communicating with people in the geographic areas they police. They know the concerns and opportunities in these areas already and are best suited to interact with the residents they serve. The officers will be able to post information pertaining to their whole patrol division or down to their beats.

We don’t intend for Nextdoor to be a replacement for face-to-face contact, but rather a complement to what we’re already doing. We look forward to residents being able to provide us information about safety concerns in their neighborhood and working with them to address those concerns.

Similarly, Nextdoor will serve as a great tool for us in soliciting assistance. As police, we can only do so much. We need the eyes, ears and cooperation of everyone to make this a safer city. A whole neighborhood of people watching for criminal activity or a suspect is usually far more effective at deterring and solving crime than anything our officers or detectives could do.

Nextdoor is another tool in our social media belt. Our police department has had great success with it and in 2013 was named the fourth-most social media friendly police department in the nation.

More than 110 Kansas City neighborhoods already are using Nextdoor, and I invite you to head over to www.nextdoor.com to sign up! (You can also do it on your Android or iPhone through Nextdoor's free app.)

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Highlights from my NPR interview

I was pleased to be interviewed on Central Standard this week on our local NPR station, KCUR. Gina Kauffman asked some very thoughtful questions. If you didn't get the chance to listen, you can read more about it and hear the full interview online. Below are some of the highlights from our Q & A:

On whether Kansas City is a safe city to live in

Over 50 percent of our homicides occur in less than a 13 square-mile area of the city. So if you look at the other 300 square miles of Kansas City, it's a relatively safe place to live. Most of our crimes are concentrated in our poor neighborhoods, neighborhoods where educational opportunities are not taken advantage of, places with [high] unemployment. We don't need a computer to tell you where the crime is going to be. We can tell you from some of the socioeconomic conditions and things like that. These are places where we've had problems and we'll continue to have problems.

A lot of times it's lifestyle. You know, we have very few random homicides. Most homicides [involve a] victim and suspect that know each other. Often times, they were close associates at one time. So if you're not involved in a high-risk lifestyle, your chances of becoming a homicide victim in Kansas City are slim.

On if more police officers are needed

Of course we can always use more officers. When we talked about the budget cycle for my first two years, I didn't ask for more police personnel. I wanted to make sure we were using the staff we had efficiently and effectively. Now that we're talking about the budget cycle again, I will ask for more because there's some other things we need to do. To me, you could never have too many [officers]. Like we talked about, the response times to the non-priority calls [need to be addressed].

On response times when crimes are reported

We have to prioritize. When we talk about a priority one call, that's a sexual assault in progress, or an aggravated assault where firearms are being used. There's only so many police officers in Kansas City. I think we have to do a better job of educating the public on these things. If you have a burglary and there's no one there and no immediate danger, it may take up to a few hours before a police officer arrives. I understand the victim wants an immediate response, but I think we need to do a better job of sharing some [other crimes] that are going on in the rest of Kansas City so they don't feel disappointed by those high expectations.

How social media is changing police work

I tweet from @ChiefForte. I try to put as much as I can out there. It helps to dispel some things. For example, you hear [people] talk about the Plaza. There might be two 13-year-old girls fighting on the Plaza, and the media says it's a "Junior Riot" the next day. So I go down there and tweet about the two girls fighting because we don't need that negative image on Kansas City.

On faith driving his energy and enthusiasm

My mom raised me to not worry about a lot of things and just know that there is a God. I pray everyday throughout the day. My grandmother is 91 years old, and I talk to her on a regular basis. She always says, "Baby, just keep praying. I don't care what's happening out there."

I don't miss sleep because I'm worried about anything, I miss sleep because my mind is constantly going. I have my iPad with me all the time so when I wake up, I start taking notes. It's think it's just my energy level, I've always been like that since I was a kid. Now that I'm 52, I need at least five hours of sleep. I don't always get it, but if I get five hours of sleep I can run all day.