By John Sharp
Hopefully, new KCMO Police Chief Rick Smith’s goal of getting the city off the list of the ten most violent large cities in the U.S. took a big step forward November 2.
That’s when the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline (a program under the umbrella of the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission) announced an increase in the reward from up to $2,000 to up to $5000 for anonymous information about KCMO homicides that leads to an arrest.
Since then, there already has been an increase in homicide tips, according to Barry Mayer, vice president of the Commission.
“We hope to see a dramatic increase,” KCMO Police Detective Kevin Boehm, Crime Stoppers coordinator.
Commission President Rick Armstrong, a former KCK police chief, said, “As you know, most homicides are solved by witnesses.” He said it’s been proven both locally and in other studies that increasing the amount of rewards can entice more persons with information about a crime to come forward.
Another person I talked to who was pleased with increasing the maximum amount of rewards was DiHaan Coody whose daughter Destiny Weaver who had just turned 25 was found shot to death in her car in Tower Park on June 2. Her murder remains unsolved.
Coody said too many people who have information about homicides aren’t willing to say anything, and that’s why the homicide rate keeps increasing.
“It’s just a sad situation,” she said. “We really need to stand up as a community and speak up.”
Coody has formed a nonprofit organization – Justice 4 Destiny, Inc., to provide support for other grieving families. It has started a program called “Words Over Weapons” to attempt to reduce the amount of gun violence in the community, particularly among young people. Her organization can be contacted at www.justice4destinyweaver.org.
Although many people who call the TIPS Hotline refuse rewards, the availability of significant cash rewards can overcome the reluctance of many people to get involved out of apathy or their fear that even if their information is provided anonymously, the perpetrator might be able to figure out who provided it.
I suggested increasing the homicide reward fund to Smith on September 23 as we participated in the Journey Through Grief Walk of the Kansas City Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children that unfortunately I belong to with many other area parents.
I told him about the $25,000 reward paid by the Omaha Crime Stoppers program for information leading to solving any homicide case resulting in an arrest and the $10,000 reward it offers for similar information about any felony shooting assault. Omaha also offers a $20,000 reward for similar information regarding any bank robbery, and a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of any homicide fugitive.
“Your idea was discussed with Rick Armstrong at the Crime Commission and with the city manager’s office. They both agreed to the increase,” Smith emailed me. “Increasing the reward is a great tool in generating leads that can solve more homicides and hopefully increase the clearance rate,” he said.
KCMO City Manager Troy Schulte told me in an interview the city contributed $70,000 to increasing the homicide reward fund which he said hopefully will carry the program through the current fiscal year ending April 30. That amount will be enough to cover the increased reward for 23 homicides. He said next fiscal year he intends to recommend $100,000 for the program.
“If the Crime Commission says we need to walk it up, we’ll walk it up,” he said, referring to the amount of the rewards. “This may be the best money the city spends.”
This increase marks the second fairly recent increase in TIPS Hotline rewards. In 2014, the reward for information leading to an arrest for any felony case increased from up to $1,000 to up to $2,000.
While I am very pleased with the latest increase in homicide rewards in KCMO, I am hopeful that other cities and counties in the metropolitan area will follow suit. I also hope that the business, civic, faith and political leadership of the metropolitan area can pitch in to increase homicide rewards to closer to Omaha’s levels throughout the area.
At press deadline, KCMO had already experienced 128 homicides this year following a triple homicide November 10, but that number may well have increased by the time you are reading this. The number of homicides this year will easily exceed the number of homicides annually in KCMO going back to at least the turn of the century. KCMO already ranked 7th in the nation in 2010-2014 homicide rates for cities with over 250,000 population, according to FBI Uniform Crime Report data.
Persons with information about a crime may call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477, go to www.KCcrimestoppers.com or download the new free mobile app via links at www.P3Tips.com. Tipsters never have to speak directly to police or testify in court.
Last month’s fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) sponsored by the KCMO City Council and Mayor raised over $78,000 and was BCRF’s “single largest independent event around the country”, according to Dr. Marc Hurlbert, BCRF’s chief mission officer.
The amount raised set a new record for the annual event that has raised more than $600,000 over the past 11 years.
Started by former Councilwoman Cathy Jolly, a breast cancer survivor, the event has been continued under the leadership of Councilman Scott Taylor, Jolly’s husband, with the support of Mayor Sly James and current and former members of the City Council.
New KCI Terminal
After receiving overwhelming approval by 77.4% of KCMO voters in the November 7 election, the city intends to introduce on Thursday, November 30, for City Council approval a memorandum of understanding with Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate to construct a new single passenger terminal at KCI Airport, according to City Manager Troy Schulte.
Schulte said federally required environmental assessments will be conducted over the next six to nine months, with a groundbreaking planned for the fall of 2018. He said the new terminal should be open by the end of 2021.
Schulte said hearings will be conducted in each council district to get public input on terminal design.
The KCMO City Council November 9 unanimously approved a general development plan for much of the area near the Cerner Innovations Campus near the site of the former Bannister Mall that will allow developers to apply for tax incentives.
Under the East Bannister plan, developers can apply for up to 100 percent abatement of any increase in real property taxes caused by their commercial or multi-family developments for up to 10 years and for up to 50 percent abatement for any such increases for up to 15 additional years.
The four areas included in the plan are the area between 93rd St. and Bannister Rd. from Hillcrest Rd. to the Kansas City Southern railroad tracks; the area between the Hickman Mills Freshman Center campus and Bannister Rd. from the tracks to Old Santa Fe Rd. and Blue Ridge Blvd.; the Loma Vista shopping center at the southwest corner of 87th St. and Blue Ridge Blvd.; and the Robandee shopping center at the northeast corner of Bannister Rd. and James A. Reed Rd.
A blight study had determined the areas as a whole are blighted even though all individual parcels are not. I testified in favor of the plan on behalf of the South Kansas City Alliance.
The ribbon cutting and grand reopening of Kingswood Senior Living Community, 10000 Wornall Rd., was scheduled for Tuesday, November 14, following a $35 million expansion and redesign project.
The expansion added 11 new two-bedroom, two-bath villas, each with full basements and two-car garages, featuring multiple floor plans up to 1,800 square feet.
The redesign included revamping an existing apartment building to include new assisted living and memory care suites. Other new amenities include a bistro and expanded dining area with an outdoor terrace, a wellness center, a health clinic, a new chapel and a new performing arts center.
Town Hall Meeting
State Representative Greg Razer will host a town hall meeting with Patrick McKenna, the director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, November 16, at Burns & McDonnell, 9450 Ward Pkwy.
The meeting will be to discuss the condition of Missouri’s transportation infrastructure and to gather public feedback on how to maintain and improve it.
Persons are asked to RSVP by calling 573-751-2437 or emailing Lisa.Buhr@house.mo.gov.
Holiday Food Drive
Grade-A Tree Care, 13404 Holmes Rd., is sponsoring a holiday food drive through Monday, November 20, to assist the Community Assistance Council’s annual efforts to help struggling south Kansas City families enjoy holiday meals.
Requested food items include canned chicken, fruit, salmon and tuna; jelly; low-sugar cereals; pasta and pasta sauce; peanut butter; rice; and whole turkeys.
For questions or pickup, donors may contact the company at 816-779-4468 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Persons may also donate a holiday food basket or individual items directly to the Community Assistance Council (CAC), 10901 Blue Ridge Blvd., or make a financial donation of $50 which will allow CAC to buy all the items for a basket for a family of four or more. Baskets and food items should be delivered to the CAC no later than Friday, November 17. (Persons should call 816-763-3277 to confirm daily office times.)
The CAC is also requesting donations of new items, which should not be gift wrapped, for its holiday store where south Kansas City families in need can select gifts for their loved ones. Items should be delivered no later than Friday, December 1.
Lists of suggested food basket items and holiday store gifts can be found on the CAC’s website at www.cackc.org where people can also make financial donations securely online. Checks also may be mailed to the CAC at 10901 Blue Ridge Blvd., KCMO 64134.
KCMO’s 2nd and last round of curbside leaf and brush collection this fall for residents who live from 63rd St. south to the city limits will be on their regular trash days November 27 – December 1.
Persons may set out up to 20 paper yard waste sacks and/or bundles of branches weighing no more than 40 pounds each by 7 a.m. No trash, grass clippings or branches more than three inches in diameter may be included.
KCMO residents also may take leaves, brush and grass clippings at no charge upon showing a valid driver’s license or state-issued ID as proof of residency to the city drop-off site at 10301 Raytown Rd. from 8 a. m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays until it closes on Saturdays for the winter after January 13.