September 17, 2013
Kansas City, Mo. – The second day of Attorney General Koster’s Urban Crime Summit, and final day in Kansas City, concluded this afternoon at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. The Kansas City No Violence Alliance (NoVA) was the highlight of the afternoon session.
The panel included Koster, Kansas City Mayor Sly James, Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson.
In the morning session, Koster welcomed Harold Pollack of the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Amy Crawford of the National Network for Safe Communities. Pollack presented on the social and economic costs of crime. He cited a finding that each homicide results in seventy residents leaving a city. Pollack discussed behavioral and psychological factors effecting young people most likely to commit violent crime. Among other proposals, he described successful mentoring interventions in school settings. Crawford presented research from Cincinnati finding that three percent of core offenders generally accounted for seventy five percent of serious urban violence. She concluded that identifying target groups was critical in deterring crime. Both Crawford and Pollack identified "street code" that encouraged violent behaviors, which must be addressed through community interventions.
Mayor James questioned why the United States has higher rates of violent crime, compared to other industrialized nations, and whether any data or research existed to explain the cause. James noted that, "one of the things we struggle with is the proliferation of illegal guns on our street." Pollack, like New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly on Monday, endorsed universal background checks.
Panel members returned to the concept of a specialized gun docket where courts deal with various crimes involving a firearm. Slay advocated for creation of a gun court "that sends the message to those using a gun illegally in St. Louis that we're not going to tolerate illegal guns in our city."
James also endorsed the concept of a gun court. "The uses of guns on the streets of this city should be treated like the big problem that it is and that requires specialization," said James.
Kansas City Police Captain Joseph McHale, the project director for the KC NoVA initiative, Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker, US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Tammy Dickinson, and UMKC Criminology Professor Andrew Fox discussed ways in which research-supported interventions are being implemented in Kansas City.
Fox highlighted using technology for social network analysis of criminals and their associates. McHale described NoVA's efforts to reach offenders with services designed to prevent recidivism. Baker cited evidence that 29% of those released from a Missouri prison reoffend within one year of their release. The Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has implemented a pilot program to assist felons reentering society.
A consistent theme among the presenters was the important role a community plays in stopping violent crime. "Slow motion mass murder is happening on our streets every day," said McHale. Koster praised NoVA leaders for their enthusiasm and commitment to the goal of raising awareness and reducing violent crime in Kansas City.
Koster suggested that courts could give priority to violent crimes, including gun crimes. “Jail cells are a limited commodity," said Koster. "My sense of the community is that we want gun crimes prioritized."
"An armed offender docket provides a swiftness of justice," said Baker. "I don’t know why we wouldn’t want that tool." Dickinson supported aggressive prosecution of violent offenders.
Nancy La Vigne of the Urban Institute opened a session and panel discussion on the use of technology as a crime-fighting tool. St. Louis Metropolitan Police Lieutenant Angela Coonts and Sergeant Brent Feig presented on the use surveillance cameras. David Chipman of ShotSpotter, Inc. discussed technology currently being used in areas of Kansas City that detects gunfire in real-time.
The Attorney General's Urban Crime Summit moves to St. Louis tomorrow for two days at the Saint Louis University School of Law. Koster expects the panel to release policy recommendations by early December.