KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jackson County is launching a new program that will help victims and witnesses of gun violence.
Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said the support program, which has yet to be named, is all about letting victims and witnesses know Jackson County cares about them.
“There are many of them in the Jackson County area, and we just want to do a better job supporting them,” Peters Baker said.
The program, generally for non-violent crimes, would offer assistance as simple as repairing a window shattered by gunfire or delivering groceries; it could be as complex as offering counseling services to those traumatized by gun violence.
“We want them to know that Kansas City, Jackson County cares about them and what happened to them is important,” Peters Baker said.
Peters Baker said the program would also help witnesses to gun violence.
“Some witnesses are scared to come forward,” Peters Baker said. “Some of them actually experience intimidation, and we want to be there when that happens.”
The prosecutor's office is partnering with Jackson County COMBAT and the AdHoc Group Against Crime on the program.
“AdHoc is going to be the organization that sends out a multi-disciplinary team to knock on the doors of victims in this community and essential witnesses on cases,” Peters Baker said.
To date, the program has a budget of $50,000.
“I didn’t want to wait however for a big funding stream to come through,” Peters Baker said. “So, we have cobbled together some funds through COMBAT’s budget, my own budget, and we’re putting them toward this program, and we’re going to keep going until we run out.”
Aishah Coppage lost her 9-year-old son and 8-year-old nephew during an August 2016 shooting. The two cousins died at the hand of a gunman who sprayed their family home with bullets; the killer remains on the loose.
“It’s life changing. Everything changes,” Coppage said.
She believes the program is a good start, saying that the littlest of things can sometimes have the biggest impact.
“The program is something that we as victims will appreciate because it shows that they are thinking about us,” Coppage said. “Give them a chance. At least they’re trying.”
Peters Baker said she wishes the new program would have been around when Coppage lost her son and nephew.
“Whenever a crime occurs in anywhere in this community there’s a ripple effect upon all of us,” Peters Baker said. “I believe there is a greater harm to community when crimes are left unsolved, and there’s an absolute hole for this kind of support in this community.”
Peters Baker said her office plans to make a formal announcement about the program in the coming weeks. You can also contact the partnering groups for more the support program.