Mayor Lucas proposes ordinance to create a Victim-Witness Relocation Fund in Kansas City

Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 5:40 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is proposing a new ordinance to offer an option for witnesses or victims of violent crimes to receive financial assistance relocating through the creation of a Victim-Witness Relocation Fund in Kansas City.

Lucas says the goal is to create a safer environment for witnesses who want to assist police and prosecutors in solving violent crimes. If passed, the ordinance would create an initial $250,000 Victim-Witness Relocation Fund. The ordinance proposal comes during Kansas City’s second deadliest year on record.

“A lot of times there’s concern for you, concern for your family and I think us doing anything we can to make sure we are saying we will build a safer environment for you is really vital for us,” Lucas said.

Missouri Representative Mark Sharp says he supports the creation of a relocation fund in Kansas City. In 2006, his close friend Nathan Buie was an innocent bystander killed by gunfire near 82nd Terrace and Wornall. Several suspects opened fire into a crowd hitting Buie. Sharp says a witness-victim relocation program might have helped if one was available in 2006.

“There were hundreds of witnesses and something like that could have been extremely helpful in bringing justice to his family,” Sharp said. “Witnesses and victims often get left out of the conversation when we talk about the violent crime in the city. So, I’m glad to see that the mayor and other city officials are taking a lead on this.”

Sharp said if the ordinance is passed communication will be key. He says witnesses and community members will need to know that the fund is available. According to Sharp, the Kansas City Missouri Police Department is one of the few law enforcement agencies that utilizes the state’s Pretrial Witness Protection Services Fund.

According to the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, on average it costs a family anywhere between $3,000-4,000 to relocate. Missouri has a “Pretrial Witness Protection Services Fund.” Supporters of the ordinance say having a local fund option could help families with less red tape.

“We are dealing with situations where families and individuals are in dire need of safety in order to not only cooperate but just continue on with their lives,” Mayor Lucas Deputy Chief of Staff Melesa Johnson said. “Those are very immediate, and we need to be able to distribute funds in a very fast and efficient way.”

The ordinance would use $250,000 from the Unappropriated Fund Balance of the Health Fund to establish a Victim-Witness Relocation Program. The health department would facilitate the distribution of funds to those who witnessed a violent crime or were the victim of a violent crime who want to participate in a relocation program.

“In every homicide just about, somebody knows what happened and not just the shooter. If we can get those somebody’s to start talking,” Lucas said. “If this helps us give 5, 10, 15 more somebody’s talking, not only does that solve that homicide but it may stop the cycle of retaliation that leads to another homicide and more shootings.”

The proposed ordinance will be heard next week at the Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee. “I see this having an impact, even if it’s only just a few that take us up at the beginning on probably perhaps dozens of shootings in our city and helps reduce those numbers long term,” Lucas said.

If the ordinance is passed, Mayor Lucas said the health department would work to begin distributing funds as soon as possible to witnesses who want to participate in the relocation program.