Federal and state officials are pooling millions of dollars to add more police officers to combat Kansas City’s gun violence, but research has shown that changing the way police interact with people is likely to have a greater impact on crime reduction.
Kansas City, Missouri, is on its way to report about 150 homicides and officials are projecting another 500 nonfatal shootings by year’s end.
Last week, the Justice Department announced that it will intensify federal law enforcement resources in seven cities, including Kansas City along state lines, in an effort to crack down on violent crime.
Attorney General William Barr singled out Kansas City, Missouri, during the Dec. 18 announcement in Detroit, calling it “one of the top five most dangerous cities.”
Barr noted that his agency will send additional “agents, analysts and equipment” to the chosen cities — Detroit; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Baltimore; Cleveland; the Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, metropolitan area; Memphis, Tennessee; and Milwaukee.
More specifically, the plan called “Operation Relentless Pursuit” will distribute $71 million among the cities to help pay for equipment and up to 400 additional police officers. The Kansas City metro area can expect about $10 million of those funds.
“It’s intolerable for some Americans to experience high levels of violence and others live in relative peace, so we go where the trouble is,” Barr said.
But researchers argue that increasing law enforcement doesn’t necessarily deter crime. Police strategy does, KCUR-FM reported.
In 2016, researchers from the University of Cincinnati surveyed the results of dozens of studies between 1971 and 2013 that examined the relationship between police force size and crime.
“Changing policing strategy is likely to have a greater impact on crime than adding police,” the researchers concluded.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said she welcomes Barr’s help “if it’s the right kind of help,” cautioning against focusing too much on drug dealers and not enough on violent crimes such as nonfatal shootings.
“When you’re at 20% or below on the solve rate for nonfatal shootings, it’s just an unacceptable number,” Baker said. “So if we could focus on those types of cases — homicide as well, of course — we could really make a difference in Kansas City.”
Kansan City Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina said in a statement about Barr’s plan the department will “continue to collaborate with our federal partners as we always have.”
“We look forward to accept and apply whatever resources are determined to be designated to us and will apply those resources to the needs of the department,” Becchina continued.