KANSAS CITY (KCTV) -- President Donald Trump pointed to the many successes of the federal initiative to reduce violent crime across the country during his address in Kansas City Friday.
Law enforcement officials in Kansas City say the city has a long way to go, but they are optimistic about the future.
While the president touted the fact that murder in America’s largest cities are projected to drop by more than 8 percent compared to 2016, that kind of turnaround is not the case for Kansas City.
As the city with the nation’s fifth highest per capita homicide rate, Kansas City has 120 on the books for so far this year, one more than this time in 2016.
US Attorney for Western Missouri Timothy Garrison noted that Kansas City is on track to have fewer homicides this year than in 2017, though.
“I think you’re already starting to see some of the results of our efforts,” he said. “I think the murder rate in Kansas City is due to be less than it was last year, and we intend to continue pursuing that.”
Garrison said he’s confident Kansas City can get to the president’s projection, hopefully by next year.
He’s working with local law enforcement to target the most violent repeat criminals in the most dangerous parts of the city. That’s the philosophy behind the Project Safe Neighbor initiative.
Trump also noted the new all-time record for the prosecution of violent crime. That’s thanks to 200 new prosecutors added across the country to combat violent crime, with two of them in Kansas City, one in Springfield and one in Jefferson City.
The president vowed to add even more funding to the fight against violent crime next year, a promise for which Garrison was appreciative.
“(I’m) just grateful that this is something that matters to him,” the U.S. Attorney said. “To know that he understands that we have a violent crime problem and wants to bring the full force of the federal government to bear on those problems.”
The president also spoke about efforts to keep fentanyl off the streets, better reintegrate people who get out of prison, and deport criminals who are in the country illegally.
Another topic that was warmly received by the crowd was the president’s mentions of respect and support for law enforcement, especially his firm stance on pursuing the death sentence for anyone convicted of killing an officer.
“My administration has also made officer safety a top priority,” Trump said. “We will protect those who protect us. And we will believe the right punishment, and we all do, for cop killers is called the death penalty.”
Four area law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty in the past three years in Wyandotte County - KCK Police Detective Brad Lancaster and Captain Dave Melton and Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Deputies Thereasa Kind and Patrick Rohrer.
Lancaster’s killer Curtis Ayers was sentenced to life in prison, while Melton’s killer Jamaal Lewis was also sentenced to life just last week, with an opportunity to ask for parole in 25 years.
KCTV5 reached out to Kansas City Kansas Police Chief Terry Zeigler, who said he agrees whole-heartedly with the president’s comment.
Garrison said he would “leave it to others to interpret the president’s remarks” but did add that any death sentence case would be considered by his office.