Within eight hours last week, detectives solved the murder of an innocent 71-year-old woman who was driving home from work. Had her murder occurred five years ago, it may never have been solved.
Barbara Harper was driving when she was shot and killed on the Downtown Loop about 3 a.m. Jan. 17. City surveillance cameras caught the whole thing, including the license plate number of the vehicle the shooter was in. Detectives used that and several other pieces of technology—from license plate readers to ballistics—to identity and arrest the suspect. We believe he had mistaken the victim’s vehicle for that belonging to another person with whom he had a dispute outside an adult business earlier in the evening.
Our message is to anyone thinking about engaging in violent crime or who knows anyone thinking of engaging in violent crime: it’s becoming more likely every day that you will get caught. There are parts of this city where we will detect your gunshot, see your license plate and capture your face on video. And those areas are expanding.
The technological advances our department has made in the last five years made solving the murder of Barbara Harper possible. She had no relationship to her killer, so traditional investigative measures likely would have produced little information. These advances have gotten us access to more public surveillance cameras and brought us more private surveillance camera partnerships. In addition to fixed-camera partnerships with entities like the Missouri Department of Transportation and the City of Kansas City, we have mobile surveillance cameras we can move around to different parts of town experiencing high crime.
These cameras work with our other public safety technology—like license plate readers and the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system—to help us identify guilty parties and prevent crime. The Police Foundation of Kansas City funded about half of these purchases, and I am very grateful for their donations. They, along with City officials who saw the importance of this equipment, are making our city safer.
Another example of partnerships and technology at work is the greatly decreased violent crime at what used to be troubled apartment complexes. We worked with a private video security company and about 20 apartment complexes that were experiencing violent crime issues on installing cameras around the public areas of the complex properties. Police can view video from the cameras and go back to review recorded video.
Our Real-Time Crime Center is staffed almost all day, every day with detectives and analysts to view and review video footage from all over the city. Officers on the streets also can view footage from many partner surveillance cameras on their cell phones.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, our partnerships with the public through WatchKC and the Neighbors by Ring app have continued to expand our ability to find the bad guys and bring them to justice. Now more than ever, if you choose to engage in violent crime, you stand a better chance of getting caught.
Barbara Harper’s senseless murder is just the most recent of many we have solved through video and technology. We’ve used this technology not only for homicides but other violent crimes such as shootings, rapes and robberies. With this technology, there is a lower probability you will get away with committing violent acts in this city. The deterrence effect will make Kansas City a safer place for everyone.
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This post was originally published on January 29, 2019 at KCPD Chief’s Blog.