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Archive for Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Plan to lower K.C.’s homicide rate outlined

October 12, 2005

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— With Kansas City homicides nearing 100 and running far ahead of last year's pace, Jackson County prosecutor Mike Sanders has announced a five-point program that includes "warrant wolf packs" to seek out and arrest violent fugitives.

Sanders' program also would use billboards and radio and television spots featuring the slogan, "The silence is killing us," to encourage more witnesses to cooperate with police, he said.

"This stuff will work," said Sanders, who announced his plan four days after the City Council established a commission to study the cause of the increased homicide numbers. As of Tuesday, 98 homicides had been recorded this year, compared with 91 for all of 2004. If the pace continues, the total could reach 120 by the end of the year.

City Councilman Alvin Brooks, who proposed the commission study, said Sander's plan would complement the council effort.

"We can't wait," he said. "We've had two homicides since the resolution was passed."

Sheriff Tom Phillips said that what Sanders described as "warrant wolf packs" would involve sending 20 sheriff's deputies and police officers on 24-hour sweeps twice a month, looking for the 50 most-dangerous people among the nearly 6,000 fugitives in Jackson County.

The fugitive apprehension unit in the sheriff's department doesn't have enough people to do that, but police officers from other jurisdictions in the country have agreed to help. Phillips said he hoped to pair about 10 of his deputies with police from Kansas City, Independence, Raytown, Grandview and Sugar Creek.

Phillips said the focus will be on violent people who are career criminals, who once arrested are more likely to either stay in jail or be sent to prison, rather than getting a quick release from custody.

The sheriff said he believes that once word of the regular sweeps gets out, the criminals will be less active and some will leave the area.

Rachel Whipple, Kansas City's deputy police chief, saw merit in going after fugitives.

"Right now they try to triage and take the most violent ones first," she said. "But it's hard to predict when someone might turn violent. ... The more people with warrants we can get off the street, the better."

The public service commercials, some featuring the mothers of murdered children, will try to persuade more people to talk to police when they have information about crimes. Sanders said he was shocked when a man recently told his son, who had been shot at, that he did the right thing by not telling police who the shooter was. Some youths even wear T-shirts with the message "Don't snitch."

Sanders said he expects private donations to pay for the public relations campaign. He also said he, his more than 70 prosecutors and others will go door-to-door to get out the message.

"We want to knock on more than 50,000 doors before the end of the year," the prosecutor said.

Sanders estimates that about 80 percent of violent crimes and murders are linked to drugs, and he wants to use about $50,000 from the anti-drug sales tax to either pay overtime for detectives or hire retired detectives to help.

The prosecutor also is proposing that the Jackson County Drug Task Force put more effort into fighting street-level narcotics and less in going after national or international drug-trafficking cases.

Sanders also said he wants to end the policy under which the county jail must release prisoners once the capacity of 800 is reached, a requirement approved years ago by a federal judge. Sanders said his office might be able to file a motion to either remove the cap or at least raise the jail capacity to 850.

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