KANSAS CITY — Kansas City has one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation, a discouraging fact that clouds the lives of tens of thousands of residents while damaging the city’s image as a safe place to live, work and play.
So an Urban Crime Summit, featuring national crime experts, is clearly needed to challenge the status quo and offer some realistic solutions.
The summit, free and open to the public, concludes Tuesday at Pierson Auditorium at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Those who can best act on new ideas include Mayor Sly James, Police Chief Darryl Forté, police commanders, neighborhood leaders and social service providers.
But let’s also be realistic.
Violent crime has been studied for decades. Causes have been calculated and recalculated. Programs such as community policing, putting cops on bikes and even having them walk beats again have sprung up. Some ideas have survived; others have been cast aside.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, known of late for his “stop and frisk” penchant, represents part of the problem with pigeon-holing how to fight violent crime.
Kelly was a featured speaker during the summit. His appearance makes sense. He’s a nationally known, no-nonsense cop who has taken credit for reducing the city’s violent crime rate during much of his nearly 14-year term.
Yet this is also true: The number of violent crimes in New York actually rose 14 percent between 2009 and 2012, according to FBI statistics.
Kansas City’s number of violent crimes dropped 7 percent in the same period.
As for Kelly’s ballyhooed but also criticized stop and frisk program, it was struck down last month by a federal judge for a very good and simple reason: It violates the rights of New York's minorities.
Kelly blasted the ruling, saying: “This is something that’s integral to policing. ... Officers have to have the right of inquiry if they see some suspicious behavior. So I can assure you, this is not just a New York City issue, it’s an issue throughout America.”
However, opponents accurately note that several other big cities without the program have had similar or even larger drops in violent crime.
Plus, the most significant declines in New York — as in Kansas City — occurred in the 1990s, before stop and frisk was in place.
To help the Urban Crime Summit live up to its potential, frank debates along with intense question-and-answer sessions must be held to evaluate the efficiencies — and deficiencies — not just of stop and frisk but of other well-known tactics such as hot-spot policing.
Forté is a big proponent of the latter program, which floods the most crime-infested parts of Kansas City with officers.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is sponsoring the summit, which moves to St. Louis on Wednesday and Thursday. He said the meetings will “develop a series of recommendations for meaningful policy reforms.”
A summit that looks for innovative but also common-sense solutions to murders, rapes and aggravated assaults that plague Kansas City has much potential — if participants are willing to have blunt discussions among themselves.
Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.