How to hype KC's murder rate
The Kansas City Star
Kansas City’s murder rate is continually hyped by residents, the city’s critics and its defenders, and many in the media. And by hyped, I mean excessively publicized, positively or negatively.
If no murders happen for a while, we get stories about how unusual this is but how we need to enjoy it. Maybe our new crime-fighting techniques are working.
If murders happen in a bunch, we get stories about the mayor, police chief and others calling for the violence to stop. It appears our crime-fighting techniques aren’t working.
Both of these reactions to the hype about KC’s murder rate pretty much are unrealistic.
Yes, of course Kansas City area residents are talking about violent crime, specifically murder, after seven homicides occurred in the first three days of this week. That brought the total to 15 for January, or an annualized rate of 180 in 2013, which would be a record high in modern times.
But where was all the happy talk about how Kansas City was a safe place to live when there were only three homicides in the first 14 days of this month? At that pace, the annual total would be around 75 - or the lowest in decades.
In fact, before the recent spate of killings, there was only one murder in KC in the previous nine days, ending last Sunday.
Face it: Why the sudden difference? No one knows or can explain it.
When homicides are down, it would be great to find out exactly why and just replicate that response the rest of the year.
However, stopping random murders - the road rage incident and the double murder at the rap studio as reported Wednesday - isn’t exactly in the realm of the Police Department or anyone else (except the people doing the shooting).
One explanation is that bitterly cold weather stops murder in its tracks, so warmer times bring more homicides. Anecdotal evidence bears some of that out in winter time - but doesn’t explain why the murder rate doesn’t then spike sky high when it’s nice outside. After all, if people wait for good weather to kill someone else, the spring and fall times should be prime murder season.
Other cities have had success using a variety of programs to reduce their murders in recent years. It can be done, and Kansas City is following yet another attempt to reduce violent crime.
New York City and Boston have had notable success along these lines, but Chicago and Detroit have not.
Kansas City needs to get into that first column of cities that are enjoying a reduction in murders. We’re not there. But if we do, that would be something worth hyping every day, every week, every month.