When I saw the item last week about the general decline in violent crime in the United States during the first half of 2011, a drop that continues a trend going on about four years, I wondered why our fair city, Kansas City, MO continues to have so much trouble with violent crime and continues to have a high homicide rate per unit of population. I hate to admit it but I let the post sit in my head too long and TKC beat me to it! However, the question is still a fair one. Why, when violent crime is steady or trending down in so many places, does Kansas City struggle with it still?
Some would say the bulk of the crime occurs in only certain parts of town, but more recent headlines have brought murder, armed robbery and car jacking further south and further west. This is why we who live in other parts of Kansas City--or other parts of the metro--cannot just ignore the problem because it doesn't happen in our neighborhoods. The problem is that many of the best ideas for reducing the murder rate must come from and be implimented from within the most troubled and crime active area--Kansas City's east side . As one who does not live on the east side of Kansas City, there are simply things I cannot do. I cannot, for example, be a model of leadership for the community, trying to lead the community into a better way of thinking about itself. I cannot accept responsibility for the community's flaws or prod the community into taking responsibility for its problems nor can I make the community improve. All these types of things have to come from within that community.
However, I can ask if the police department and the city government are doing all they can to make reduction of violent crime for the whole city a priority. I can ask if my police force is doing its best police work or can they do better. I can wonder if my city government is making the reduction of violent crime part of the list of urgent things to work on in our city.
There are a lot of forces at work that can cause a murder rate to be high. Do we know which one of those forces are in play here? Are the murders drug related? Gang related? Part of a misbegotton culture of "gaining respect" that has taken over? Are people becoming violent to get the things they want--or to feed a drug habit? Are we keeping enough really bad people in prison?
I have written a lot of posts on crime on this blog and they often seem to circle back to the same point about community, taking responsibility and so forth. There are times that I am not sure that we can solve the "crime problem," only contain it. At this point, I would say that we are not even doing a very good job of containing the crime problem, and I would also say that we are not making it the priority it needs to be in our civic life. It is time for all of Kansas City to stand up and demand that it become a priority to reduce the rate of violent crime in Kansas City, Missouri.