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Koster joins area leaders in search for crime solutions

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Attorney General Chris Koster says Kansas City's murder rate is unacceptable and he joined area leaders Monday in searching for ways to stop violence.

Area leaders met with Koster to come up with ways to put a stop to violence in the metro.

"This senseless violence can be stopped," he said.

Koster announced his four-day crime summit as a way to "explore meaningful responses to the high rate of urban crime facing metropolitan areas in Missouri."

National and regional experts are presenting their findings on issues such as hot-spot policing, crime mapping, evidence-based policing, strategies to reduce gun violence and the challenges felons face reentering society.

Koster spoke to KCTV5 about a specific focus on gun courts and gun dockets that could come out of the summit.

"So if someone gets arrested for a purse snatching with a gun, or a homicide with a gun, there is going to be a very high cash-only bond. That I believe could be a recommendation out of this conference, and then a very quick, perhaps 180-day trial, where from the moment they are arrested, they are not likely to see the light of day. We are going to prioritize all gun crimes at the very highest level," Koster said.

The summit began Monday at University of Missouri-Kansas City's campus, and it will continue there on Tuesday. The remainder of the summit will take place in St. Louis.

Both Kansas City and St. Louis consistently rank in the top 10 nationally for high levels of violent crime.

UMKC researchers in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology have partnered with local, state and federal law enforcement to reverse that trend.

"Our children, teenagers and young people in their 20s are at the heart of this activity and we can't afford to lose them," UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton said.

Of Kansas City's 108 homicides in 2012, 44 involved victims who were 24 years old or younger.Kansas City Mayor Sly James said nearly half of the city's homicides occur in a 13-square-mile area east of Troost Avenue.

He said combating violence must be the entire city's concern.

"We have to look at violent crime as a problem for the entire city, not just a few neighborhoods," he said. "Violent crime affects every person in this city."

New York City police Commissioner Raymond Kelly talked Monday about policing practices that have contributed to New York City's decline in violent crime. He advocated for tighter gun rules including implementing requirements involving the purchase of ammunition. 

"You have to be able to attempt to prevent crime from happening. You have to go after those people aggressively who have committed crimes," he said.

James also said he wants to get quick convictions of those using guns in crimes and make it tough for those to get out of prison.

The idea is to explore gun courts with high cash bonds and quick trials. Koster said those who use guns for violence should know they face lengthy sentences.

"We are going to prioritize all gun crimes at the very highest level. Even if it is not a homicide, even if it is just a purse snatching, we will make that a priority," he said.

In response to the city's summer curfew, the city provides community centers for 12 weeks for children. James said the approach works, but the city can't afford this year round.

"During the 12 weeks that we program for the kids during the summer and give them a place to be on a Friday and Saturday night, youth crime dips. We know it has an impact," he said.

All meetings on Tuesday are open and free to the public at UMKC's Pierson Auditorium.

KCTV5's DeAnn Smith contributed to this report.

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