KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Days after setting an all-time high for homicides in Kansas City with 70 days remaining in 2020, the city could be ending its Aim4Peace program.
There are now calls to end the long-standing Kansas City Health Department crime prevention program.
But months before Kansas City record 154 homicides, Aim4Peace was already under fire.
“We need an effective violence prevention program, and frankly I don’t see that in the data we are getting,” City Councilman and Health Commissioner Dan Fowler said in a July debate regarding the program’s funding.
It’s been a public health approach since 2005 to reduce shootings and homicides and reverse the violence epidemic in Kansas City. The organization’s 21 employees, mostly supported by federal grants, respond to hospitals when there are shootings.
“Everybody is trying to get their get back, which is they want to get their retaliation. Aim4Peace goes into that community, attempts to mend fences so it stops more violent crime,” said Bishop Adam Blackstock, vice president of Concerned Clergy Coalition of Kansas City.
They also help trauma victims’ families and teach classes on life skills and job readiness. Blackstock joins the group at the street level as a volunteer, providing social, mental and spiritual support.
“Giving Aim4Peace the right resources, the amount of people it needs on the street, it could truly be part of the solution for the city’s victory in dealing with crime. I’m out there. I know what we’re doing,” Blackstock said.
This year has been more challenging with hospital emergency rooms virtually locked down to visitors at points, but the group says in 2019, it saved 150-plus lives with 450 hospital visits at Truman Medical Center and Research Hospital. Aim4Peace centers on the corridor between 27th and 47th streets from Wabash to Jackson avenues.
But Councilman Brandon Ellington, who has proposed dissolving the program, said it’s short on metrics and evidence of their claims. He wants to replace it with an Office of Citizen Engagement that he said would provide more transparency of government dollars.
“For us to have an organization that can’t prove what they do and they need more money to do it better would only relate to someone who’s not very smart,” Ellington said. “You wouldn’t pay anybody to cut your grass and say you can’t see what I did, but if you give me more money I’m going to do it better.”
The program’s future is scheduled to be debated Wednesday in the Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee.