Leaders say this strategy reduced gun violence in Omaha. Will it work in Kansas City?

Kansas City’s next approach to combating violent crime could be distinctly influenced by a successful program in Omaha.

KC Common Good, a nonprofit addressing the root causes of violence in the city, is spearheading the creation of a similar program based on Empowerment Network’s Omaha 360 initiative.

The goal is to build a community-based approach to reducing gun violence, building stronger community relations and implementing justice reforms. The goal is to launch Kansas City’s version, called KC 360, next year, said Klassie Alcine, CEO of KC Common Good.

The organization is working the create a collaborative approach that has never been seen in Kansas City, said.

‘’We recognize that us thinking that we can do what we can do by ourselves isn’t working,” Alcine said.

Omaha leaders were in Kansas City Friday to discuss their successes with the program at a public safety coalition meeting held at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce in Union Station.

Under the program, Omaha has seen a reduction in shootings, homicides and police shootings, said Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer. The department has also seen a reduction in citizen complaints against the department.

Omaha has seen a reduction in shootings of 74% over the past 15 years and its homicide rate fell to its lowest in 30 years through the Omaha 360 violence prevention collaborative, according to KC Common Good. The city also has seen the clearance rate for homicides rise from 30% to 80% while police shootings decreased over the last 10 years.

The results achieved by Omaha are what KC Common Good hopes to create here.

“They have a proven track record of success,” said Major Kari Thompson of the Kansas City Police Department. “At this point here in Kansas City, we have a violence problem. And so we have to be intentional and this program is intentional. So why not?”

The key is that it has proven it can work, said John Sharp, president of the South Kansas City Alliance.

“Omaha is a city almost identical in population, very similar demographics and yet they have basically a 10th of the homicide rates we do,” he said. “So this isn’t speculative.”

Omaha Chief of Police Todd Schmaderer talks about the Omaha 360 Collaborative during a conference at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.
Omaha Chief of Police Todd Schmaderer talks about the Omaha 360 Collaborative during a conference at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

KC 360

In May, interim Kansas City Police Chief Joseph Mabin announced on his blog that the department had joined KC 360 and was conducting pilot programs in the Santa Fe and Oak Park neighborhoods.

“Omaha 360 has been successful in working with community partners in the areas of prevention, intervention, and community engagement,” Mabin said. “The result has been a large decrease in gun and gang violence.”

Marquita Taylor, president of the Santa Fe Area Council, said that even though they are in the beginning stages, she has already seen how powerful the program is going to be.

“I’ve seen so many organization step forward and say, ‘What do you want us to do?’” she said.

The program will be different from the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, or NoVA, initiative credited at the time for a sharp reduction in the city’s ongoing homicide problem.

The program, implemented in 2014, focused on violent offenders in an effort to reduce crime by offering them help in finding jobs, getting an education and other assistance.

But by 2019, the program had been all but abandoned by former Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith. He pulled officers and other resources from the program, and homicides in Kansas City began to climb to new historic levels.

“As a former employee of KC NoVA, I think what makes this approach different is the collaboration and the community engagement part of it,” said the Rev. Darren Faulkner, program manager for KC Common Good.

“One of the areas that, in my personal opinion, NoVA went wrong was that they didn’t have a strong community engagement component to the work that they did.”

KC 360 will be community-first and will be a bottom-up approach rather than a historically top-down approach, he said.

The KC 360 planning committee has been developing a comprehensive plan and strategies to help the cities with the highest rates of violence. It will focus on the same five pillars as the Omaha 360 program — prevention, intervention, enforcement support, reentry and reform and support services.

“This is not a ‘program of the day,’” said John Ewing, Douglas County (Nebraska) treasurer and former deputy chief for the Omaha Police Department.

“This is a strategic, comprehensive approach that has been documented, evaluated by researches at two universities . . . and we believe it can work when you have a great team like we have in Kansas City.”