Saying that “this bill could save lives,” Mayor Sly James on Monday asked a Missouri House committee to advance legislation that would establish a separate criminal docket for armed criminal offenders as a pilot project in the Jackson County Circuit Court.
James told the Missouri House Emerging Issues Committee that involving the judiciary in the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (KC NoVA) will help improve the city’s crime-fighting results. NoVA is capturing attention nationwide, including a visit earlier this month by several St. Louis leaders.
“In large thanks to the work of KC NoVA, Kansas City ended 2014 with a total of 79 homicides, the lowest our homicide rate has been since 1972,” James said. “But I want to do more, and Kansas City wants to do more. Involvement of courts can help improve KC NoVA results.”
“With data from the courts that can help us better identify risk factors that lead to violent crime, we’ll be better able to deal with violence on Kansas City streets,” James said. “In time — sooner rather than later, we hope — we will be better able to reduce crimes involving firearms and, by extension, the caseload of the Jackson County Circuit Court.”
KC NoVA uses data-driven analysis of social networks to focus resources on the very small number of individuals who use firearms to commit violent crimes. The proposed pilot project would require the circuit court to coordinate the sharing of court data with law enforcement and other criminal justice personnel.
James thanked Rep. Kevin Corlew of Kansas City for introducing the bill, which would require dedicated judges and other personnel for all matters related to weapon offenses and robbery in the first degree. The bill also requires an annual public report on operations within six months of each anniversary of the creation of the docket; and a $30 surcharge for each armed offender docket case to help defray operating costs.
James said the National District Attorneys Association and the American Prosecutors Research Institute support armed offenders dockets. Armed offender courts have increased conviction rates and decreased repeat crime rates in cities like Boston; Philadelphia; Providence, Rhode Island; and Birmingham, Alabama.
More rapid adjudication of armed criminal offenses helps address other problems, James said.
Accused persons whose cases are resolved more expeditiously have less chance of getting into trouble while out on bond. They also may be less likely to intimidate witnesses, and more witnesses may be more likely to step forward if they know that the cases will be tried more quickly.
“This bill will truly show criminals how serious we are about prosecuting those who continue to commit crimes with illegal guns,” James said. “I can’t help to think that if criminals knew there was a system in place to ensure the swift and harsh punishment of these types crimes that they would think twice before doing something stupid.”
James said he hoped the House would support this bold step against crime.
“Sure, this may be a new and innovative idea, but I think it’s one that deserves serious consideration and full support,” he said in prepared testimony. “How can we call ourselves public servants if we aren’t willing to try to implement new strategies that will increase the safety of our citizens?”
Note to editors and reporters: The Armed Offender is House Bill 1044. More information is available at http://www.house.mo.gov/billsummary.aspx?bill=HB1044&year=2015&code=R . To obtain a copy of the mayor’s prepared testimony, email Michael Grimaldi, Press Secretary, at email@example.com.
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