Homicide has been the leading cause of death for Black men ages 15 to 44 for more than half a century. More than 86% of homicides in Black communities involve firearms. These disparities are even more striking for young Black men: homicides are the leading cause of death and more than outstrip the next 15 leading causes of death combined. In other words, in 2021, more Black men ages 15 to 24 died in homicides than from unintentional injuries, suicide, heart disease, COVID-19, cancer, nonfirearm homicides, diabetes, congenital abnormalities, and chronic respiratory diseases, police shootings, cerebrovascular diseases, anemias, sepsis, influenza and pneumonia, and HIV combined.
Homicide is also the leading cause of death for Black children, in large part because of the severe burden of homicides on this population. Homicide has been the leading cause of death for Black children since 2006. Seventy-three percent of gun deaths among Black children are homicides, and, in 2021, Black children were nearly 13 times more likely to be murdered than white children.
Is That All There Is?
Not quite, but the logic is really pretty simple: if you are the type of person who goes out and commits crimes with others, you are probably connected to people who commit crimes with some frequency. And that puts you at risk of getting murdered, because people who commit crimes sometimes murder others who become inconvenient, or who just get in the way.
AmericanThinker | Sociology, which is sometimes defined as the painful and tedious explication of the obvious, occasionally comes up with useful insights, or at least proof that some useful insights are true. That seems to be the case with a study by Yale sociologist Andrew Papachristos, published in the academic journal Social Science & Medicine, and featured in the Chicago Sun-Times.
It turns out that being arrested with someone else is the best predictor of who will get shot in Chicago. No, not by the police, shot by another civilian, in the epidemic of shootings that have made Chicago at some times more dangerous than Baghdad.
If you and another person get arrested together in Chicago, you’re both part of a loose network of people with a high risk of getting shot in the future, Yale University researchers say in a newly published study.
Only 6 percent of the people in Chicago between 2006 and 2012 were listed on arrest reports as co-offenders in crimes, the study says. But those people became the victims of 70 percent of the nonfatal shootings in the city over the same period.
The study is done with social network analysis, studying who knows who and how they interact, and drawing up networks that reveal the clustering that results from various commonalities.
The latest Yale University study was built on Papachristos’ previous social-network research into murders on the West Side. He had studied killings between 2005 and 2010 in West Garfield Park and North Lawndale. About 70 percent of the killings occurred in what Papachristos found was a social network of only about 1,600 people — out of a population of about 80,000 in those neighborhoods. Inside that social network, the risk of being killed was 30 out of 1,000. For the others in those neighborhoods, the risk of getting murdered was less than one in 1,000.
These statistics demonstrate the wisdom of the old adage, “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.” They also show that it is not GUNS per se that are related to the higher incidence of violence in some black communities…
For every 100,000 people, an average of one white person, 28 Hispanics and 113 blacks became victims of nonfatal shootings every year in Chicago over the six-year study period.
… but rather the existence of networks of people who engage in violence and reinforce each other in patterns of violent behavior.
There are some useful implications for policing in Chicago (and Kansas City)
Kansas City Has Prior Experience From A Decade Ago With Tackling Its Black Homicide Epidemic
UMKC | An ongoing law enforcement effort to rethink strategies to reduce violent crime in the Kansas City area has its own secret weapon: UMKC. http://info.umkc.edu/news/using-research-to-reduce-violent-crime/
The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, part of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, was intimately involved in the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (NoVA). NoVA was a 2-year-old multi-agency effort to reduce homicide. http://kansascitynova.org/
Chancellor Leo E. Morton served on NoVA’s governing board, and UMKC faculty members and graduate students were embedded in NoVA’s effort to implement a crime-prevention approach known as “focused deterrence,” which helped police look beyond individual criminals to the criminals’ entire social networks.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police called out UMKC’s relationship with the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department through NoVA when it awarded the department its 2014 bronze medal for Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award. The award recognizes law enforcement agencies that demonstrate excellence in conducting and using research to improve police operations and public safety.
UMKC became involved with NoVA at the very beginning. In 2012, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker came to Ken Novak, chair of the Criminal Justice and Criminology Department, to ask how UMKC could help curb a rising tide of violence on Kansas City-area streets. She’d heard about focused deterrence and its success in other cities and wanted to try it here. It just so happened that Andrew Fox had just taken a job as a professor in UMKC’s criminology department, and Fox happened to have experience with focused deterrence.
What Did They Do?
UMKC | The approach called for conducting an audit of violent criminals, mapping their connections and using those connections to encourage criminals to police themselves. If a crime is committed, the police can then go after the perpetrator’s entire group – (social network) – nabbing members for even petty offenses.
“The fact of the matter is, the group members we’re talking about aren’t afraid of police – and they’re not too scared of the prospect of getting arrested. Going to jail is just part of doing business,” Novak said. “But they’re scared to death of people in their social network, like friends, cousins, etc. People in their social network are more effective at regulating their behavior than the criminal justice system.”
In 2013 Fox began helping police conduct social network audits of the area’s criminals. Forty groups or gangs were identified and mapped so the nuances of their leaders and connections to each other could be easily understood.
“Violence spreads much like disease in the network,” Fox said.
As part of focused deterrence, law enforcement reached out to key people in criminal groups through quarterly meetings to get out the message that violence will not be tolerated. If one person in the group missteps, they are told, everyone in the group will be targeted for everything from parole violations to parking tickets to unpaid child support. https://info.umkc.edu/news/using-research-to-reduce-violent-crime/
“The law enforcement representatives will say, ‘The next group to commit a homicide, we’re going to focus all our law enforcement on all of your group,’ ” Novak said.
The effort also involves offering group members access to social services to help them escape a life of crime.
Novak and Fox are embedded researchers in the project, which is very different from the neutral, observe-only role academics usually take. In this case, they were purposely involved in policy and decision making, such as participating in planning meetings and conducting training with criminal justice officials. This model of “action research” is endorsed and recommended by the US Department of Justice.
The result for the researchers is a first-hand grasp of the process as it unfolds, which they hope provides insight for their research.
“It may be the wave of the future for criminologists,” Novak said.
Focused deterrence has helped reduce crime in Boston, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and High Point, N.C. Novak and Fox say it’s too early to tell whether declining violent crime numbers in Kansas City so far this year can be credited with its implementation here.
But Joseph McHale, a captain in the Kansas City Police Department who manages the NoVA program in that department, said he’s certain a 37 percent reduction in homicides was directly connected to NoVA’s efforts and its work with UMKC.
“We are getting ahead of violence and using intelligence in a way that we never have before,” McHale said.
In the past, a lot of crime fighting has been based on tradition or gut. But through this project, the UMKC professors were helping the area’s top crime fighters – along with the street-level cops – understand the importance of valid and reliable data in making decisions.
Mike Mansur, a spokesman for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, said the result will be a long-term change.
“We don’t look at it as a project or a specific effort,” he said. “It’s more a shift in the way law enforcement is approaching the problem of violence.”
Why Isn’t Kansas City On The Cutting Edge In Homicide Mitigation NATIONWIDE?
kansascity | Soon after he became Kansas City’s police chief in 2017, Rick Smith pulled officers away from a strategy credited with reducing homicides. https://archive.ph/hJl1w#selection-1661.0-1725.304
The effort, called the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, or KC NoVA, garnered national attention after killings dropped to a historic low of 86 in 2014, the fewest in Kansas City in more than four decades.
Under NoVA, law enforcement agencies used “focused deterrence” — targeting violent people and their associates and offering them a choice: change your behavior or go to jail. In exchange, they would get help finding jobs, getting an education and other assistance.
But when homicides increased again by the end of 2015, authorities went back to their separate agencies and “started chasing the bloodstain,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said.
By 2019, the strategy was effectively abandoned.
Now, an assessment obtained by The Star offers candid insight into why: Despite the effort’s early success, the Kansas City Police Department had grown weary of the strategy and began to step away, angering other participants who wanted the program to continue.
“Instead of really steering into the problem and retooling ourselves at that moment, we kind of threw in the towel,” Baker, one of the chief architects of KC NoVA, said in December. “We kind of gave up.”
Some key figures who were part of KC NoVA’s launch were reassigned or moved on. Its effectiveness was questioned as killings rose in 2016. Significant elements of the strategy were dismantled over time.
Since then, murders have continued to increase. In 2019, the city nearly hit an all-time record.
Other cities that stuck with and adjusted their focused deterrence strategies over time eventually prevented homicides by targeting a small group of chronic offenders vulnerable to sanctions, supporters of the approach say.
Kansas City police instead announced last summer they were partnering with federal authorities on a program that had been around since 2001 and was retooled in recent years under then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It focuses on targeting the most violent individuals, but not their associates.
That shift, Kansas City police said, was endorsed in an assessment conducted by the National Public Safety Partnership.
“Today, we are focusing the limited resources of the KCPD to the individuals who are ‘trigger pullers,’” the department said, noting it is constantly evaluating what works and what needs to change. “We don’t rule out any potential solution and will consider all options in order to reduce violent crime.”
Why Is The Black Homicide Epidemic Out Of Control In Kansas City In 2023?
In a less than useful opinion piece in the Kansas City Star last week, Toriano Porter urged us to“be careful with tropes and stereotypes” when you describe the fact of highly disproportionate young black male perpetrated homicides. Toriano Porter needs to be careful with both language and math because what he wrote in this professionally embarrassing opinion piece is not only transparently untrue, it doesn’t even add up at an elementary level:
“Of the 131 homicide victims to date, 98 of them were Black men and women, according to Kansas City police data. Of cases with a known perpetrator, a Black male was suspected in 59% of homicides cases.”
But then goes on with:
“Black men ages 18 to 24 commit 23% of Kansas City homicides. What are we doing to protect or encourage this group?”
I’m actually quite good with math and much prefer the simple and direct statement of truth. So let me state the truth right up top. The vast majority of black folks follow the law. We both hate – and – we are deeply ashamed of – the epidemic homicide rates in our own communities.
I am really confused and conflicted about Porter’s opinion piece. From where I sit, Porter is intentionally conflating the truth because 98 out of 131 is 75% not 23%. Porter is shading the facts because he either seeks to avoid a backlash among folks similarly inclined to obfuscate and play fast and loose with the truth – or – he conflates the truth at the direction of his paymasters. Neither one is a good look, and frankly – I’m at a loss for understanding the motivation to even try and put lipstick on this pig to make it more appealing. https://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/toriano-porter/article278593439.html
Sisters Gonna Work It Out
Later in the Kansas City Star’s Toriano Porter opinion piece, Rosilyn Temple speaks the unvarnished truth:
When Rosilyn Temple, founder and program director of KC Mothers in Charge, declared at a recent panel on gun violence that Kansas City has a Black on Black crime problem, fellow panelists and audience members shot down the statement. But was she wrong?
“We have a Black on Black problem in our community,” Temple said at a roundtable discussion on art and gun violence earlier this month at 21c Museum Hotel. She was joined by members of the Kansas City Artists Coalition, a group of creatives using art to address societal issues in and around Kansas City.
Later, I asked Temple what were some of the solutions to Black on Black crime in Kansas City, and how the tough conversation we need can be had. The question-and-answer did not go without challenges. And rightfully so.
“The community has to take responsibility,” Temple said. “It’s a community problem.”
Here’s What Embarrasses Me
If you’re grown, then you know that nonsense begets nonsense.
Kansas City is poised to outpace its deadliest year ever, with almost all the homicides committed with a firearm. In response, officials have ramped up conversations about ways to mitigate the surge.
In May, Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves announced the department is collaborating with anti-violence groups and other area law enforcement in a citywide initiative. In June, a 12-hour broadcast on radio station KPRS was billed as a “call-to-action” in partnership with Ad Hoc Group Against Crime. And earlier this month, the Kansas City Council approved Mayor Quinton Lucas’ proposed ordinances banning certain firearms, such as machine guns, and accessories like silencers.
Betwixt and between our no problem solving mayor, his no problem solving police chief, and that no problem solving Kansas City Star pundit who put up that terrible opinion piece last week, “we” evidently want to ban firearms and protect and encourage the young domestic terrorists who commit 75% of the homicides in Kansas City. (98/131=75%) to simply “do better”.
Why I’m Not Worried About Guns
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, while politicians, pundits, and police impotently “watch their tropes and stereotypes” black women have decided to work it out. Black women in Kansas City – the very constituency most affected by the tiny minority of violent criminal social networks operating in this exceptionally dangerous and homicidal city- have begun openly carrying firearms and training to properly use them:
As Kansas City heads toward a record setting year of homicides, these Black women say guns are not the problem but a symptom of underlying problems. They’re also buying guns and learning how to use them safely.
RaShaun Brown wears glossy pink lipstick, three-inch-long hot pink fingernails and a small black pistol in a cross-body holster. She wants people to know she’s not only a gun owner but one who carries openly.
“Because when I was growing up, I never saw a Black person, woman or man, out in public with a gun unless they were a criminal, and that’s the same on TV,” she says. “I’m a mother, I’m a wife, a friend, and if you see a person that is not a bad person with a gun, it may open your mind. I’m not getting ready to hold up the store.”
Seems to me that Black women like Rosilyn Temple and Rashaun Brown have a much better handle on things than our politicians, law enforcement professionals, and pundits. I’m deeply embarrassed for the politicians, police, and pundits that it’s come to this. But there it is.
The Truth Of The Situation
These women know that the problem isn’t guns, no, the problem is violent criminal social networks who have been rampaging and making our community and our city increasingly unlivable. Given the harm and the suffering that they cause – these are domestic terrorists. Here’s a picture that was published earlier this year by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police department of five suspects wanted in conjunction with a mass shooting in downtown St. Louis that killed one and wounded ten.
The last thing in the world I want to do is to “protect and encourage” any of these young domestic terrorists. Rather, I want to see the full and unfettered application of every legally available measure to eliminate the underlying problem that is conspicuously obvious to the casual observer.
And no, the underlying problem is not poverty and it’s not guns. Simply stated, the underlying problem is a tiny minority of drug-addled, mentally ill violent domestic terrorists.
Black women in Kansas City have not taken up firearms training and open carry of weapons to protect themselves and their loved ones from either poverty or guns.
Poverty and Violent Crime Don’t Go Hand in Hand
New data on Asian-Americans in New York City undercut a common assumption. The Columbia study revealed the startling news that nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of New York City’s Asian population was impoverished, a proportion exceeding that of the city’s black population (19 percent). This was surprising, given the widespread perception that Asians are among the nation’s more affluent social groups. But the study contains an even more startling aspect: in New York City, Asians’ relatively high poverty rate is accompanied by exceptionally low crime rates. This undercuts the common belief that poverty and crime go hand in hand.
I can’t support emotional contagion and lemming-like adherence to trending hypocrisy about firearms knowing that a laser focus on and application of existing domestic terrorism law is more than sufficient to address the problem. https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-23-104720.pdf
Compel the federal government to stop live action role playing on domestic terrorism and violent extremism for partisan political purposes, and instead, focus its awesome investigatory and prosecutorial force on the tiny minority of violent domestic terrorists in geographically confined urban ghettos who are responsible for fully half of all violent homicides involving the use of guns against innocent civilians and children in the U.S..
Federal criminal law defines domestic terrorism as acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of U.S. criminal law, occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and which appear intended to (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population, (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or (iii) affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.1 According to its legislative history, the “domestic terrorism” definition was included “for the limited purpose of providing investigative authorities (i.e., court orders, warrants, etc.) for acts of terrorism within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”2
It will never become politically feasible in the U.S. to take firearms away from law-abiding citizens. The Pretty Pistol Posse makes it abundantly clear why this is the case. On the other hand, it is directly and entirely feasible to enact definitions, laws, and governance which change up the seriousness with which law enforcement takes the epidemic of black on black homicide by treating it as domestic terrorism instead of as petty crime. The very instant that “Black Lives Matter” it will become imperative to bring this shameful scourge to an end.
The only barriers to making this happen are the legal and political frameworks under which social network analysis, surveillance and intervention can be undertaken.
I don’t believe for one minute that a single retrograde police chief like Rick Smith was capable of derailing a citywide effort to scientifically combat its epidemic homicide problem. Though the more we tug at that loose thread, the more we find out about former Chief Smith doing bad things like protecting Cody Gideon from discipline and demotion https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article278318133.html so that he could move on to perpetrate another day. I don’t believe that there aren’t other smart folks who know about our city’s experience with scientific policing and who know that it’s highly effective in combating the homicide epidemic. https://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/the-u-s-knows-how-to-reduce-crime-11669391854 (https://archive.li/sez1k)
Does this failure of Transparency, Accountability and Good Governance boil down to the backwardness of one man? Does the position of police chief wield so much authority that it’s capable of derailing a multi-institutional initiative that showed good results? Are there other stakeholders within the KCPD that didn’t want scientific policing to continue? Are there other political or business interests that are served by continuation and worsening of the violence that plagues not just the 3rd and 5th Districts, but which also spills out into the metro at large? Is the secretive Iron Law of Oligarchs involved at some level within the Civic Community to keep things at status quo?
The one thing I know for certain is that anyone with the temerity to call himself a man in Kansas City – should be deeply ashamed of complicity in letting the situation in our community deteriorate to the point where women feel compelled to take up arms to defend themselves against domestic terrorism in Pretty Pistol Posses. Kudos to these women for taking a stand, but shame, shame, shame on the men for making them have to.
Opinions expressed are those of the author. Questions and feedback are welcomed and can be directed to CNuCMG@gmail.com