Federal prosecutors have revived an effort to target violent crime in Kansas, this time with a focus on Wichita and Garden City, U.S. Attorney for Kansas Stephen McAllister announced Thursday.
The Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative prioritizes federal prosecutions of repeat violent offenders and convicted criminals who carry firearms.
Wichita and Garden City were selected for the initiative because their violent crime rates are higher than the Kansas average. In Wichita, the rate of violent crime is 10.6 cases per 1,000 people – nearly triple the state average. In Garden City, the rate is 5.1 cases per 1,000 people.
Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said Thursday the rate of aggravated assaults has doubled since 2012.
“This is a significant concern of mine and this community’s,” Ramsay said. “We want to do everything we can to reduce violent crime, and it is through collaboratives such as this where we bring strong, dedicated partners to the table to help us focus our efforts on bringing justice to those that are terrorizing this community.”
The initiative is assisted by a $165,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, McAllister said, that will provide more investigative resources and increased prosecutorial capacity to handle cases. McAllister said the Department of Justice approved two additional federal prosecutors in Kansas who may specifically focus on prosecuting cases of violent crime.
Project Safe Neighborhoods will host a task force in Wichita to review investigations, identify targets, and strategize for violent crime cases. The task force will also assist Garden City in their efforts to review the prosecution of cases involving repeat offenders, gang members, and drug traffickers.
“When we’re all pulling rope together in the same direction, we will have success,” Ramsay said.
Project Safe Neighborhoods is based on an earlier initiative of the same name that began in Wichita in 2001. McAllister said a change in federal administration has led to new priorities, and that by bringing the effort back into focus, he’s hopeful it will produce “similar, positive results.”
Evan Pflugradt is an intern with KMUW's News Lab. Follow him on Twitter @EvPflu.