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After Finally Coordinating Efforts, Crime Drops In Northeast Kansas City

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
The Kansas City No Violence Alliance canvassed the Northeast neighborhood back in the spring. So far this year, the area has seen a drop in violent crime.

With just one month of the year left, there have been zero homicides in Kansas City's Northeast neighborhood in 2018, down from 11 last year, according to Kansas City police data. On top of that, aggravated assaults are down 15 percent and robberies 20 percent from 2017.

It's no coincidence. Crime and violence in the area had been climbing over the past few years — East Patrol community interaction officer Greg Smith attributes the spike to prostitution, drugs and "gang" activity.

"If crime gets a foothold in one area, it will spread," Smith said. "We felt we had to do something to address this."

So, the KCPD sent more officers to the area, and about six months ago, they deployed an "impact squad" to the Northeast, which consists of a sergeant and six officers that operate undercover in a designated hotspot area for crime and violence.

But it wasn't law enforcement alone that brought crime down in the area.

Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Three area residents, two police officers and one woman from the prosecutor's office were assigned to canvass the area near Pendleton and Park Avenue.

Back in March, early on a Saturday morning, the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA) canvassed the Northeast, going door-to-door to ask residents what their biggest concerns were and let them know KC NoVA was available to help. 

A group of about 70 people split into small groups, each with a few police officers, community members, and employees from the Jackson County prosecutor's office. Each group was also trailed closely by a large police van.

Like a lot of the residents who spoke with NoVA that day, Luke Haynes said he often heard a lot of gunshots. He was new to the area but said the neighborhood had an active Facebook group. 

Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
A few people who lived near the intersection of Brooklyn Avenue and Pendleton Avenue reported they heard a lot of gunshots through the night.

"We don't want to steal the thunder from the community because the community is a big piece of the success as well," Smith said.

He said he's seen an increase in calls and emails from residents reporting suspicious activity. As a CIO, he's been able to make an appearance at various neighborhood meetings, and he believes that has made a difference.

"It's been a collaborative effort with the neighbors doing great reporting," he said.

Vince Ortega, the executive director of COMBAT — the Jackson County's anti-drug sales tax program — said he believes part of the reason we've seen rising levels of violence in the metro in recent years is the fact that the city's multitude of anti-violence and prevention groups tend to "operate in their own silos."

The coordinated effort in the Northeast over the past year is part of a bigger push to change that, and it's a part of a "Violence Reduction Initiative."

After the Northeast was identified as a "hotspot" for violent crime, Ortega has been hosting monthly meetings at Mattie Rhodes with community members, Kansas City Public School officials, city leaders and police. He said the significant drop in crime is a clear result this effort.

"It's multiple agencies providing multiple services in a more coordinated fashion," Ortega said. 

Smith said bolstering the community is key and feels he's been able to do that thanks in part to KCPD Chief Rick Smith's decision to place two CIOs and a social worker at each patrol station.

"If everybody would work collaboratively, you can see crime can be reduced," Smith said. "And the citizens are the main piece to this. Everybody wants a safe neighborhood. As long as we can keep that momentum going, we'll see it continue to reduce."

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope.

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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