Kansas City has a new police chief. Darryl Forte took over the position in early October. Since being appointed, there's been a surge in the number of officers deployed to a 13 square mile area where more than half of the city's homicides happen.
Chief Forte says police have been taking weapons off the street and putting shooters behind bars. He says officers are even arresting crime victims when officers find they're involved in narcotics or gang activity. Police are also stopping cars to check for funs or drugs in Kansas City's most violent neighborhoods. They're checking people who are standing on street corners to see if they're selling drugs.
Tactical officers are executing search warrants at problem homes and undercover officers are buying drugs and then busting the sellers. The chief isn't worried about complaints of harassment. He says he's doing everything police can legally do to stop crime. He says it's working.
"We just had an incident last week where we had a drive by shooting, and we had so many resources out there we were able to apprehend four offenders in a brief amount of time," Forte said. "We had helicopter out there, we had undercover out there street narcotics people, mounted patrol, canine, and traffic. When the call came out they were able to identify the car and we were able to apprehend four people after a short vehicle pursuit. We're taking people off the street. That's what this plan is intended to do."
Forte is Kanas City's first African-American Police Chief. One of his first official acts was to re-assign 52 commanders. That's more changes than any chief has made before him. One of the biggest changes Forte has made is establishing a victim assistance and witness support unit to help encourage better community cooperation with police.
"If you look at most successful cities, it's about engagement," Forte said. "Sometimes when you have a victim in my opinion, we hadn't really carried them through the system. They don't know who to talk to, they don't know the status of cases."
People who call the AdHoc Group Against Crime say they've noticed a change in police presence. Police Commissioner Alvin Brooks says the rank and file is buying into the new strategy as well.
"I see police officers in some of our stores, working off duty time," Brooks said. "I see them at activities. I drive beside them when they park out in the lot or someplace. I say what do you think? They said (thumbs up)."
Forte also says he's thankful for other African Americans within the police department that came before him and forged the path that enabled him to become chief.