One of the top ranking local crime experts in Kansas City is kind enough to share his perspective on the local crime scene that doesn't shy away from record breaking pace of local carnage . . . Yet also offers hope and a path forward.
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Dr. Ernest Evans: An Innovative Crime-Fighting Program from Kansas City
In the last eighteen months the US has experienced the largest increase in homicides in the recorded history of the country. In 2017 homicides declined 2% and in 2018 they declined 6.8% and in the first eight months of 2019 homicides nationally declined about 4%. Then, in September and October of 2019 the homicide surge began--in the last four months of 2019 homicides increased 8%. In calendar year 2020 the homicide increase continued--there was a 30% increase in homicides nationally; by far the biggest yearly increase in recorded history--the previous record was 13% in 1968. And, the homicide surge is continuing into 2021: A recent survey of the 37 largest cities in the US showed that in the early months of 2021 there had been an 18% increase in homicides.
This homicide surge has not affected the nation's demographic groups equally. Specifically, a massively disproportionate number of the additional homicide victims have been black men, women and children. I noted above that in the last four months of 2019 homicides nationally increased 8%--but the numbers of white/Asian/Hispanic homicides continued the decline of the first eight months of the year while the numbers of black homicides increased sharply. The two major local cities here in the KC-area both reflected this disproportionate black homicide surge: In KCMO there were 98 black homicides in 2018 and 40 homicides of other races--whereas in 2019 there were 115 black homicides and 33 homicides from other races; in Saint Louis there were 156 black homicides in 2018 and 30 homicides from other races--whereas in 2019 there were 175 black homicides and 19 homicides from other races.
This surge in black homicides continued into 2020. As I noted above there was about a 30% increase in homicides overall in the US in 2020--but there was a 50% increase in the number of black homicides. And, this surge of black homicides is continuing into 2021: In the first two months of 2021 there were 92 homicides in Chicago--75 black and 17 other races. In contrast, in the first two months of 2019, before the current homicide surge began, there were 46 homicides in Chicago --34 black and 12 other races. If the trends of the past several months continue there will be twice as many black homicides in 2021 than there were in 2019.
This surge in violence in the black neighborhoods of America makes it urgent that the nation's police departments do all they can to improve their relationships with their local black population. But, given the history of policing in America this is not an easy task to undertake: When slavery was legal the local police forces often acted to block the efforts of the Underground Railroad to smuggle slaves to freedom in Canada. During the century of segregation that followed the abolition of slavery in 1865 police forces all too often brutally enforced the segregation laws. Slavery was abolished in 1865 and legal segregation ended in the 1960's--but old memories die hard. As the great novelist William Faulkner used to say: "The past is not dead. It is not even the past."
With this urgent need to improve police relations with the black people of America I thought that it would be appropriate to call attention to a most innovative initiative in Kansas City, Missouri. Sgt. Ann Murphy of the Kansas City Police Department was asked to come by a local school early in her time on the force to urge the students to stay out of gangs and to stay off drugs. At the school she was concerned to note that the students were afraid of her and did not trust her. She realized that such a high level of distrust was inhibiting the city's efforts to fight crime.
So, she organized a soccer team in KCMO composed of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Om 2015 she converted her soccer team into a non-profit called Youth RISE. Her organization not only coaches soccer teams but provides the players with tutoring and mentoring in their college plans. Over the years she has helped literally hundreds of young people go to college--most of the time these young people were the first people in their families ever to go to college.
This program organized by Sgt. Murphy is an innovative step towards building trust between the black population of KCMO and the KCPD--and as such it is a worthwhile example to be imitated all over the nation in response to the ongoing surge of violence in the black neighborhoods of America.
You decide . . .