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Kansas City Murder Burst Contrasted With New Crime Fight Job

Dan Verbeck

Kansas City’s newest program to fight violent crime began today, aided by UMKC researchers, state and federal prosecutors, police and others.  The launch coincided with a chilling set of deaths.

A fresh double-homicide in south-side Kansas City had detectives going to work, one  hour before top crime fighters were gathering to describe the program, initially announced in May of 2012.

There had been 6 murders in the preceding 48 hours.

Into the mix comes the Kansas City No Violence Alliance or KC NoVA.

It’s a long range effort. It has  two prongs; put the worst 1 percent of violent criminals in prison and convince up-and-comers to take another path.

Police Captain Joe McHale manages the project He is a 22 year police veteran who thinks of himself as a born-to-it SWAT Team commander, serving in a different role.

This week, as part of Operation CleanSweep, Kansas City police arrested 17 people, some suspected of homicide.

McHale says that “small” crime network involves about 360 people, most from the Old Northeast Side. Some can be redeemed, said McHale-- “we can’t offer social services to the whole city. We have to truly offer it to select individuals who are involved in violence or who have the propensity to become involved in violence.”

Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte believes the initiative has a good chance to end the "cradle to prison" cycle that he said perpetuates violence.

Credit Dan Verbeck / KCUR
Captain Joe McHale manages anti violent-crime initiative for Kansas City Police Department.

Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology Andrew Fox gathered data from investigators and drew models of criminal groups.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City educator was able to show how the criminal players are socially interconnected. Graphics and charts make it more clear how crime associates interact. Captain McHale described the 360 member group as “one of the smaller ones.”

McHale said the organization is too loosely organized to be called a ‘gang.’  Illegal Drug sales are a common denominator.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Tammy Dickinson said if, and when, federal prosecution can be brought into play, “we will help Kansas City in any way we possibly can.” Dickinson acknowledged that federal anti-racketeering prosecutions may not be possible in many cases, because, “some associations are tighter than others.”

Mayor Sly James  said it will be a “long war.”  

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