KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Amid ongoing violence, the Kansas City Health Commission held an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon.
Dr. Rex Archer, who has provided numerous updates the past 3.5 months on coronavirus was a part of the virtual call, along with more than a dozen health and city officials.
They weren’t discussing the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, but a rise in violent crime.
Since April 1, COVID-19 has killed 32 people in Kansas City, while 56 have been killed by violence. That’s nearly double.
This week started with the death of 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, shot and killed as he slept in his bed.
Thursday, two police officers were shot in separate incidents. The second shooting, where a police officer was critically injured after being shot in the head, took place during Thursday’s emergency meeting to address violence as a public health issue in Kansas City.
There have been 97 homicides in the first half of 2020. The city’s record decades ago is 153.
“We do not want to hit 100 nor do we want to hit 150, nor do we want to set records. This is not the place we want to be at,” Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith said at a news conference Friday.
“I think people are very frustrated and people are more so frustrated with this idea that we need to continue to talk and study about something when we kind of already know what the answers are,” Dr. Marvia Jones, Violence Prevention and Policy Manager for the Kansas City Health Department, said.
The health department considers violence to be a disease just like coronavirus.
“Much like you would with any other disease, you want to figure out under what conditions the disease thrives. You want to know who is most at risk for it, and how the disease behaves in different environments,” Jones said.
According to a presentation in Thursday’s meeting, at the root of the issue are socioeconomic factors, concentrated poverty, access to jobs, and transportation to where the jobs are located.
The Kansas City Health Department also has a program called Aim For Peace.
When there’s a shooting employees head to the hospital to meet with the family to try to prevent another shooting in retaliation.
But they only have funding for the program in just one sector in just one of KCPD’s patrol divisions.
Despite challenges the health department says there’s one big difference between violence and COVID-19- there’s a cure.
The program is modeled after the “Cure Violence” model in Chicago, based on community-based public safety solutions.
“Whatever we can do to prevent the continued frustration that seems to plague our streets and that frustration tends to met with illegal gunfire. We need something to turn that tide,” Chief Smith said.
Smith said Friday the Kansas City Police Department has its own ideas it will likely be implementing in the next few weeks. He didn’t go into detail, but hinted they’d be centered around community engagement.