Kansas City Looks To Florida For Help Solving Its Gun Violence Problem

3/19/2020
 

For years, Kansas City, Missouri, has suffered from one of the highest homicide rates among big American cities.

And while it still hasn’t quite reached levels seen in St. Louis or Baltimore, there’s reason to be pessimistic. Some cities with violent reputations, such as New Orleans, and Oakland, California, have seen recent success in reducing homicide rates. In Kansas City, however, the violence has persisted.

In response, Kansas City police have made a stack of changes to how the department investigates violent crime — especially shootings.

The new strategies come in part thanks to the city’s participation in a Department of Justice initiative called the Public Safety Partnership (PSP). The program, first announced by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017, is designed to help cities with violent crime problems enact new tactics.

The federal program also facilitated visits for Kansas City police to their counterparts in Milwaukee and Tampa, Florida.

Tampa, in particular, has seen a remarkable reduction in crime over the past two decades.

“I remember watching news articles where tourists were being told, don’t come to Tampa,” said Captain Paul Lusczynski, who heads the Tampa Police Department’s violent crimes bureau. “As a city that thrives on conventions, tourism and business relocations, having that crime label attached to us is devastating.”

Crime fell in most large cities during the 1990s, but in Tampa, it kept falling into the new millennium. According to a Guns & America analysis of FBI data, Tampa’s violent crime rate in 1998 was 2,557 per 100,000 residents. By 2017 it fell to 464, a drop of 82%. During the same period, Kansas City’s violent crime rate went from 1,868 per 100,000 residents to 1,724 — a drop of less than 8%. FBI statistics consider violent crime to include murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.