Why Did Female Homicides Spike In 2017 In Kansas City?

Jan 31, 2018

Kansas City Police Capt. Keith Kirchhoff (left) of the Homicide Unit and Capt. Doug Niemeir prepare to brief a City Council committee on the increase in the number of women murdered in the city last year.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Almost lost in the discussion about the 150 homicides in Kansas City last year is this: Why did the number of women murdered jump 52 percent between 2016 and 2017?

In 2016, 21 women were murdered in Kansas City. Last year the number was 32.

The Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee tackled that issue on Wednesday.

You might think that most women died from domestic violence or during arguments (as KCUR documented in the series The Argument), but the motive for most of the murders is listed as "unknown." 

Officials, however, have their own ideas.

“What is true is that they’re involved in more violent crime," Kansas City Police Capt. Doug Niemeir told the committee. "Unfortunately, the trend is more women are involved in those types of crimes and part of that is we have females who are homicide victims.”

Police do know that more women are being killed with guns. Nine women were shot to death in 2015, 14 in 2016 and 27 last year.

“People are being more emboldened by using guns to murder women,” said Councilwoman Alissia Canady, who chairs the committee.  “This impacts a group of people who are not normally associated with gun violence: women, white women between the ages of 18 and 44 who are being victimized by this issue of gun violence, and we as a community have to do something to stop it,” she said.

Canady said she wants more information from KCPD on homicides where the motive is unknown and would like to find a way to generate more information from potential witnesses.

One thing that seems to be working is an increase in reward money offered by the TIPS Hotline. The top reward was boosted to $5,000 last November and that has brought in more tips on unsolved homicides.

“We have seen an increase in calls," said Capt. Keith Kirchhoff of the KCPD Homicide Unit. "Time will tell, but I do believe that it will certainly aid us in clearing more of these crimes.” 

Sam Zeff  is KCUR's Metro Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @samzeff.