According to statistics sourced from local police departments, the total number of homicides in the Kansas City metropolitan area reached 200 in 2016, the highest for nearly ten years. As many Kansas Citians prepared to welcome in 2017, community organization, AdHoc Group Against Crime, held a vigil Saturday morning to remember these victims and support their families.
The vigil included reading aloud the names of 200 people killed during the year and then releasing balloons in their honor. Damon Daniel, president of AdHoc, said the high number of victims is not the only troubling feature of the year’s homicides.
“Domestic violence is on the rise but also a lot of the folks who are suspects, or those who perpetrated some of the crime and homicides, are much younger than other recent years, so that’s a big concern," Daniel said.
"We still want to let them [the victims' families] know that we’re still thinking about you, we’re still fighting for you, we’re still here with you as well and so that’s what today is about," said Daniel.
Chrystal Parish, mother of Terrance Parrish who was killed in 2012, said emotional support from AdHoc has helped her emerge from what she describes as a "tunnel of darkness" after the murder of her 19-year-old son.
AdHoc was started in 1977 by a group of concerned Kansas City residents in response to the unsolved murder of nine African American women. The group provides a range of support services, including counseling for victims' families and cognitive intervention programs in correction centers for the perpetrators of crimes. Daniel said the vigil on New Year's Eve is one of many they hold during the year.
Joanne Banks is a social worker specializing in criminal justice and was one of a committed group of AdHoc volunteers at the vigil. "I think the most important thing [about this vigil] is to come together and let the community now that we care," she says. "That we care about what's going on in Kansas City, that we care about the loss of our loved ones."
Pastor, Bishop Frank Gardner was one of several faith and community leaders who spoke at the event. The Pastor's tone captured the palpable atmosphere of hurt and distress, but left room for some optimism. "I believe when we go into 2017, I believe we're going to hear less and less about young men leaving families and women grieving - this is my hope."
The majority of the homicides in 2016 - more than 120 - occurred in inner city areas of Kansas City, Missouri. According to statistics from the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, nearly 70% of victims and just over half of the suspects of homicide in this police precinct were young African American men.
However, AdHoc outreach worker Calvin Neal made it clear during the vigil that homicide is not just primarily an inner city issue impacting the African American community.
When Neal took his turn to read aloud names on the list, he mentioned the actual neighborhoods where the killings occurred. Prairie Village and Lee’s Summit, places not usually associated with violence, were among more familiar crime locations. "It's all of our problem," said Neal, before handing over the microphone to the next reader.
Daniel Wood is a freelance reporter.