© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kansas City Hopes Paying Tipsters More Will Help Reduce Crime

Chris Haxel
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith speaks during a press conference Friday, June 21, 2019 at Charles Evans Whittaker U.S. Courthouse.

The summer months tend to be among the most violent, and Kansas City is on pace for more homicides than last year, so officials are offering something to help solve crime: more cash, with no questions asked.

The city’s Crime Stoppers program, which rewards anonymous tips that lead to an arrest, features a sliding reward scale based on the severity of the crime.

A typical gun crime, such as illegal possession of a firearm, might dole out $1,000.

In 2017 police upped the max reward for a homicide tip to $5,000. Last year they increased it again, to $10,000. On Friday they raised the max reward even more, to $25,000.

“That's the most amount of reward of any city in the country,” said Rick Armstrong, president of the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission, which oversees the program. “We think it's going to be a compelling increase to have people become involved and put that information out to the police to help us keep our neighborhoods safe.”

Armstrong said officials were inspired by Omaha, Nebraska, which also offers up to $25,000 for homicide tips. The police department also cited Omaha when they increased the reward last time, in April 2018.

The reward program, also known as the TIPS hotline, has been around since 1982. Armstrong said tips have helped make an arrest in 646 homicides.

“It’s a big number,” he said. “We think that’s going to increase. We’ve paid out nearly $1.4 million in reward money (since 1982).”

Kansas City has recorded 59 homicides as of June 20, according to city statistics. Police say they have cleared 26 of those cases. In 2018, the city had logged 54 homicides by the same date.

Armstrong said tipsters can also send anonymous tips via cell phone apps.

His announcement came during a press conference hosted by Tim Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

Garrison, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith and other law enforcement officials also spoke at the event, which was timed to coincide with the first day of summer.

Smith said the Kansas City No Violence Alliance program -- also known as KC NoVa -- has recently shifted from a violence intervention approach that targeted groups or gangs to one focused on individuals.

“This approach has been a great success in cities like Tampa (Florida), which has had a dramatic reduction in violent crime,” Smith said.

Almost two-thirds of homicides were group or gang-related when NoVa was first implemented around 2014, he said. Police now think groups are a factor in about one-third of the city’s homicides.

Smith said the shifting approach comes about partially thanks to guidance from the National Public Safety Partnership, a Department of Justice initiative spearheaded under President Donald Trump’s administration.

Kansas City is one of about 40 communities across the country that have been selected for the program, which promises federal assistance with crime analysis, technology, training and other factors.

Chris Haxel is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email him at chaxel@kcur.org, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisHaxel.

As a reporter covering military and veterans’ affairs, I tell the stories of current and former service members and their families. I hold the government, elected officials and others responsible when they break their promises. And I explore how Americans can best uphold our commitments to those who serve.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.