By John Sharp
Celebratory gunfire continued to be a major problem in KCMO during the New Year’s holiday, and a spokesman for the Kansas City Police Department said occupants of 12 residences reported bullets hitting their homes. Sgt. Jake Becchina of the Department’s Media Unit said he couldn’t recall more than four or five homes being hit by indiscriminate gunfire on past New Year’s holidays.
Despite public pleas from Mayor Quinton Lucas and Police Chief Richard Smith, from 6 p.m. December 31 to 6 a.m. January 1 there were 240 gunfire alerts from KCPD’s ShotSpotter gunfire detection system indicating there were about 1,600 rounds fired according to Becchina. For the same time last year there were 216 ShotSpotter activations he said.
The number of calls KCPD got about gunfire during this time period was down this New Year’s from 316 calls during last year’s holiday to 271 during this year’s. Last year 80% of such calls were about shots being fired in the Central, East and Metro Patrol Divisions, and this year only 71.2% of such calls came from those Patrol Divisions, indicating the problem is spreading.
The Grandview Police Department reported receiving 12 calls complaining about gunfire this New Year’s, down from 16 last year. Before this New Year’s holiday, personnel from that Department distributed flyers to some apartment complexes urging residents not to engage in celebratory gunfire. I heard hundreds of rounds fired, some very close by, in my neighborhood in the Ruskin/Hickman Mills area, and did call to report it, but at least the shooting didn’t seem to go on as long as it did last year, and it wasn’t nearly as intense as the shooting that occurred after the Chiefs won the Super Bowl.
Fortunately, and somewhat miraculously, there were no reports of people being struck this New Year’s by celebratory gunfire according to Becchina. Discharging a firearm within the city with certain exceptions is currently a city ordinance violation punishable by a fine of up to $500 and up to six months in jail, or both.
State legislation has been introduced again this year by my son, Representative Mark Sharp, and co-sponsored by Representative Jerome Barnes to make discharging a firearm within or into city limits with criminal negligence a state offense with stiffer penalties that escalate for repeat offenses. This legislation (House Bill 99) known as Blair’s Law is named after 11-year-old Blair Shanahan Lane who died after being hit here by celebratory gunfire on July 4, 2011.
During an exclusive interview with Chief Smith January 4, he asked the public to contact the Department’s community interaction officers in each Patrol Division to report the addresses where celebratory gunfire continues to occur. Smith said he is exploring installing surveillance cameras in those areas so persistent shooters can be identified and charged which he noted would be safer for everyone involved than attempting to arrest armed and often inebriated shooters in the act.
The South Patrol community interaction officers are Mary McCall and Aaron Whitehead, and they can be contacted via email at Mary.McCall@kcpd.org and Aaron.Whitehead@kcpd.org.
The community interaction officers in the other five Patrol Divisions may be contacted by going to the Department’s website kcpd.org and clicking on Contact Us, then clicking on the caller’s Patrol Division and then clicking on Community.