As of today, 107 people have been killed in a homicide in Kansas City this year. That is a significantly higher amount than at this time in years past. But what is different about this year is the relationship between victims and suspects. Contrary to popular belief, a majority of these homicides could not have been prevented by law enforcement. No amount of officers on patrol can stop a simmering family dispute or someone who chooses to end a petty argument with a firearm.
Through initiatives like the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, we have made a significant impact on what we call group-related violence. This violence arises out of criminal groups’ illegal activities and cycles of retaliation. (Some might refer to these groups as “gangs,” but not all of them are.) When KC NoVA fully came to fruition in 2014, Kansas City experienced its lowest homicide rate in more than 40 years, with 82 murders. And you know what? The group-related homicide rate has remained relatively consistent since then. The work of KC NoVA and its community partners is keeping that in check with everything from social services to strict enforcement on members of particular groups in which a violent crime occurs.
But there are so many other homicides we can do nothing about. Consider the two people murdered this past weekend. One was a son who killed his father. The other was a woman who got into an argument with another woman and asked her boyfriend to go over and confront the woman she was fighting with. It appears the boyfriend shot up a car full of people, not just the woman in question. One died, and three others were transported to hospitals in critical condition. The only way law enforcement could have intervened in either of those situations was if someone notified us. And we are begging you to let us know when something like this is occurring or about to occur.
In so many of this year’s homicides, someone had to know that something was amiss. Someone had to know a dispute was brewing. Someone had to know that their friend or family member was angry and armed. If someone had called us, officers might have been able to stop the homicides from ever taking place. As City Council Member Alissia Canady said at our Board of Police Commissioners meeting this morning, “Everyone is looking for us to do something, but it needs to come from the community.”
We know the motive in 53 of this year’s 107 homicide cases. Of those 53 homicide motives we know, 24 of them were arguments. Instead of resolving a conflict through discussion and compromise, poor anger management skills and easy access to guns have led to the death of at least 24 people in Kansas City this year. Again, in many of these cases, multiple people knew that a conflict was at hand, but no one reached out to law enforcement to ask for help in changing the eventual outcome.
The second-most frequent motive that we know of in this year’s homicides has been domestic violence, with 14 cases. Two of those were murder-suicides. Not all were intimate partner violence. Several involved parents and children. Domestic violence rarely erupts into homicidal levels of violence out of the blue. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship – even if it is with your own child – please contact us. We can work with victims to get them the resources they need to stay safe.
Seven of this year’s homicide victims have been 16 or younger. Several of them were young children – innocent bystanders who were victims of adults unable to resolve conflicts in a civil manner. Their loss should outrage us all.
With homicides up over recent years, and many people asking us, “why?” I encourage everyone in Kansas City to ask themselves that question. I ask everyone to consider what your role is in decreasing the violence in our community because you have much better reach and influence than we do over the people you know. If you know someone is angry, unstable and armed, tell us. If you know a conflict is about to escalate into violence, tell us. If you know someone who is being victimized by a violent abuser, tell us. It’s the only way police can intervene.