Crime rate down, NoVA believes efforts to assist community are working

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City's homicide numbers are lower than they have been in decades. The Kansas City No Violence Alliance -- a group of law enforcement and social services agencies -- believe their efforts to target and to dialogue with criminal elements may be paying off.

"Operation Ice Melt" might well be called "Operation You Had Your Chance."

When NoVA task force members raided a Kansas City home last Tuesday, the 54 people arrested there and elsewhere, had been warned.

Straighten up, take advantage of services -- or else.

"We know who you are, and we know who your friends are, and if your group is responsible for violent acts in Kansas City, we're going to come after you with everything we've got," said Major Joe McHale.

McHale says it's not a new approach in other cities, but new since 2012 to Kansas City.

The idea is to bring agencies together to pool knowledge and resources -- including social services. Then with the help of two University of Missouri Kansas City professors, map out the social networks of the bad guys and gals -- connect the dots. Know who's hanging with who, and lay it out: shape up or be stopped.

It starts with street knowledge -- even from the feds.

"The FBI, the ATF, the DEA, all have tremendous amount of resources," said Tammy Dickinson. "But most of all they have a tremendous amount of intelligence."

It's a Kansas City alliance, but Deputy Chief Randy Hopkins insists crime knows no boundaries. Neither does NoVA:

"We routinely have conversations with the metro chiefs of police and surrounding suburban agencies and we talk about these criminally-related issues," Hopkins said.

NoVA leaders spoke to FOX 4 on Monday to share the story of a lowered homicide rate-and how it betters lives -- and more.

"To the extent we can eliminate that Kansas City is a high-crime area, we're so much the better and people are freer and happier to move here and stay here," Kansas City Mayor Sly James said.

And in the end, fewer victims -- victims like 6-year-old girl Angel Hooper, killed in a gun battle's crossfire -- tough for even a strong prosecutor to discuss.

"I saw with Angel Hooper's family and they are in a state of utter disbelief and grieving, and they will have to learn to live with that loss," Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker said fighting back tears.

Leaders say the engagement with these groups has paid off for some. At least 140 are actively involved with agencies trying to help them better their lives -- and stay out of prison.