“You can’t arrest your way out of the problems of drug abuse and violence.”
— COMBAT Commissioner Larry Beaty (May 2019)1
A new logo, unveiled in late 2021, symbolizes how COMBAT has evolved.
The original 1993 logo cemented COMBAT’s ties to the notorious “War On Drugs,” with a “bare knuckles” approach to getting tough on drug crime.2 But COMBAT has unclenched the fist of that ’90s logo—and the outdated lower-the-hammer mentality associated with it.
Today, COMBAT’s focus is on lifting up people. Addressing the crises in their individual lives can have a dramatic impact on improving the entire community’s quality of life—and public safety. COMBAT’s logo is now a call for “All Hands In.” The threatening fist has been replaced with four helping hands, representing Community, Prevention, Treatment and Justice—each coming together in a unified effort to identify problems and seek solutions.
‘”We want people to be AWARE,” declares COMBAT Executive Director Vince Ortega, when introducing the All Hands In logo. “Be aware of the changes we’ve been making to the COMBAT program and in the community. Be aware that COMBAT isn’t just accepting and approving grants for anti-crime funds, but is truly being a partner in doing everything possible to address violence and drug abuse holistically. We can’t hope to reduce either if we neglect to focus on the underlying causes.”3
The new logo perfectly aligns with a collaborative initiative COMBAT actually began in 2015. Using crime data, COMBAT discovered that the Ruskin neighborhood in South Kansas City was a “hot spot” that needed more resources being allotted to it through the Community Backed Anti-crime Tax. That meant more than just awarding funding to agencies offering services in and around Ruskin but also forming stronger community partnerships to “work the problem together.”
COMBAT’s Striving Together to Reduce Violence In Neighborhoods (STRiVIN’) initiative has since expanded to Northeast Kansas City, Independence, Raytown and Midtown Kansas City.4 In STRiVIN’ neighborhoods COMBAT literally brings together police officers, social workers, school administrators, elected officials, faith-based leaders, mental health professionals, substance use disorder counselors and concerned citizens to share insights, pool resources and better provide services. COMBAT funds an agency in each STRiVIN’ neighborhood to serve as the “hub,” charged with coordinating the anti-drug and anti-violence efforts in that neighborhood.
“As police officers, we always want to help people, but we can’t always fix the issues in their lives. We’re responding to the immediate crisis they’re having. We’re going from call to call. With this [STRiVIN’] referral application, we can do something more to help them. It’s amazing for us to have a resource like this—right at our fingertips.” — Raytown Police Officer (December 2021)5
Through STRiVIN’, COMBAT has implemented perhaps its most innovative program to date: an online social services referral application.6 When it was initially introduced as a pilot program in his community, Raytown Police Chief Bob Kuehl called the referral platform “the first of its kind in the nation.” The STRiVIN’ Referral portal allowed Kuehl’s officers to use their phones to submit a simple form that, when processed, could lead to an individual or family receiving life-changing, possibly even life-saving assistance.
This referral system is now available in every STRiVIN’ neighborhood. In addition to the police, school administrators and others can utilize it. The referrals are routed to the STRiVIN’ hubs that do all the necessary follow-up work, including an in-depth needs assessment and connecting the individuals or families with community agencies that can provide the necessary assistance.
The customized database COMBAT had created for the Referral program includes tracking the progress of each referral and identifying areas of need, ranging from housing and income assistance to trauma counseling and other health care. Through the end of 2022, 617 referrals had been made through the system. Ultimately, the objective—again—is to help these individuals and families so their circumstances improve before there’s an escalation that could result in further police calls to their homes or violence.
“Assistance is available to you, and we want you to get the help that can improve your circumstances. Things don’t have to get worse before they get better.” — COMBAT Community Resources Available To You Brochure6
Creating the Social Services Referral portal and being data-driven, including using heat maps to better pin-point where to allot resources, clearly reflect COMBAT’s embrace of technology and innovation. However, COMBAT’s administration understands real change can only arise from forming human connections—from serving Jackson County as one community and recognizing what impacts one neighborhood impacts our whole community. We are all neighbors.
That sense of community propelled Jackson Countians to make history when they first approved the anti-drug tax. They’ve continued to support what’s now the Community Backed Anti-crime Tax because they grasp the fact drug abuse and violence are both legal issues and public health crises. Responding to the perils of violence and illegal distribution of drugs like fentanyl—one of the deadliest threats ever, due to its lethality in such small doses—requires resources.
COMBAT remains an essential source of funding for the courts, local police, the Jackson County Drug Task Force and Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office. But COMBAT’s ongoing support for the community, through funding Prevention and Treatment initiatives, is even more crucial in 2023 and beyond.
2 The Kansas City Star October 9, 1993