By John Sharp
The Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) is working with other state and federal partners to revamp its Project Safe Neighborhoods program and model it after a highly successful program in Tampa which targets the most violent six percent of offenders who commit about 60 percent of that city’s violent crime.
Speaking to a packed house at the January 14 meeting of the South Kansas City Alliance, KCMO Police Chief Rick Smith said he hopes the revised program can be fully implemented this spring. He said the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri is taking the lead on the project and working with KCPD, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office and other public safety agencies and organizations involved in reducing violent crime.
He said his department is also working with Rutgers University to develop a plan to study neighborhoods in the city that have high crime rates to determine their root causes. He said he hopes this program called Risk Terrain Modeling, also will start in the spring.
Smith said other recent changes the department already has implemented to improve public safety include hiring more call-takers so 911 calls are answered quicker, doubling the number of community interaction officers to improve cooperation with neighborhood groups and adding a social worker to each patrol division to work with persons experiencing problems that could lead to criminal activity if they aren’t dealt with appropriately.
He said the department is requesting funding from the city to hire 30 more officers.
“With the staff we have now, we’re going from call to call nearly every night,” Smith said. He explained that officers’ committed time is about 80 percent of their on-duty time, leaving them little time for community policing and being proactive instead of reactive. He said ideally officers’ committed time should be less than 50 percent.
Smith also advocated continuing to increase the maximum cash reward for anonymous tips about homicides offered by the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline, a program of the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission.
Until recently, the reward for homicide tips in KCMO was only $2,000. After I told the chief about the success of Omaha’s $25,000 maximum reward for homicides, he took the lead in getting the reward for homicides committed in KCMO increased to $5,000 and then to $10,000.
“I’d like to see that grow,” Smith said.
KCPD Detective Kevin Boehm, coordinator of the Crime Stoppers program who also spoke at the meeting, said two homicides in KCMO have been cleared based on Hotline tips since the maximum reward was increased to $5,000 in November 2017, and four more have been cleared since the following increase to $10,000.
Persons with pertinent information about felony crimes or fugitives may call the TIPS Hotline anytime at 816-474 TIPS (8477). If the tip results in an arrest or a warrant being issued, the caller is eligible to receive a cash reward.