Project Safe Neighborhoods encourages tough approach on violent crime

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- President Donald Trump was in Kansas City on Friday to speak at the national "Project Safe Neighborhoods" conference.

Project Safe Neighborhoods is aimed at improving relationships across law enforcement, from local police and prosecutors to U.S. attorneys and federal marshals.

“This effort brings together law enforcement, community groups and local leaders together to get the most violent criminals in the most dangerous areas off the streets and behind bars,” Trump said.

At its core, that's what Project Safe Neighborhoods is. A growing body of research shows that up to 70 percent of all violent crime happens in just 5 percent of city blocks and is committed by just 5 percent of the population.

“It might be a single street block in a neighborhood or zip code that’s really driving the problem. So if you can focus, place attention there,” said Cody Telep, conference presenter and Arizona State University assistant professor of criminology.

Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith said it's an approach his department's used for years. But now, they're getting extra help.

In October, US. Marshals partnered with local police to bust 56 violent offenders in "Operation Washout,” pulling drugs and guns off the streets.

“We know if we focus on that, we should be able to reduce violent crime,” Smith said.

Some cities involved in Project Safe Neighborhoods have also adopted scoring systems for violent offenders, a measure Kansas City is considering.

Smith said what he appreciates most about the president's approach is building respect for law enforcement.

“We will not tolerate attacks on the heroes who protect our streets and defend our communities. We will not tolerate it,” Trump said.

Trust in police helps them do their jobs more effectively and build strong community relationships to cut crime.

“I know if we don't work on these relationships, if we don’t work on that connection, that building of trust, it will only get worse. This year, we are trending down in many categories in violence so we are making some in-roads,” Smith said.

Another arm of the program is beefing up prosecutions of criminals after they're arrested. More than 300 new federal prosecutors have been hired, including many here in the Kansas City area, to specifically go after violent criminals and pursue stiff punishments against them.