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With Homicides Up, Violence-Free Kansas City Committee Wants Community Input

Peggy Lowe
KCUR 89.3
Volunteers with violence prevention group Aim4Peace canvass a neighborhood in East Kansas City. After homicides, they go door to door to engage with the community in dialogue about safety and awareness when it comes to gun violence.

Amid a rise in homicides in Kansas City, Missouri, the Violence-Free Kansas City Committee (VFKCC) is urging community members to take a short online survey on violence in the metro. 

This is the final phase of a two-year project, spearheaded by the Kansas City Health Department in partnership with the Prevention Institute, a nonprofit group which takes a public health approach to violence and has worked in cities like Minneapolis and Oakland.

One of the overall goals of the project is to spark collaboration between violence prevention groups.

It's not necessarily a new idea — during his first term in 2014, Mayor Sly James called upon the city to coordinate its strategies to combat violence. That's how VFKCC first formed. It's a diverse board, with representatives from the Kansas City Police Department, Aim4Peace, Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) and Kansas City Public Schools, among others.

"The cities with greatest coordination across sectors have the lowest rates of violence," says Prevention Institute Associate Program Director Lisa Fujie Parks.

Health Department Deputy Director Tracie Cole says they looked into ways to elevate certain strategies that all parties could get behind. One of the strategies that came out of that is a "Youth and Family Violence Prevention Plan," which ideally will take a "community resilience" approach to violence. 

Parks says it's important to consider the dynamics leading up to an individual shooting, but more than that, it's important to consider the broader context. 

"There's a history of violence, exposure to violence ... lack of opportunities, basic needs not being met. It's the accumulation of that that leads to a situation that might result in a shooting," Parks says.

After factoring in the community's input from the online survey, they hope to release the final Youth and Family Violence Prevention Plan next year. 

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @_tudhope, and email her at andreat@kcur.org.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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