Getting the Job Done:
A Comprehensive Strategy to Keep Our Community Safe
LAW AND ORDER: CRIME REDUCED 29%
Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) Crime Index for Johnson County recorded a 29% per capita reduction in crime since District Attorney Steve Howe took office in January 2009. Strong charging and convictions have sent a clear message to criminals that if they are caught doing a crime in Johnson County, they will be held accountable.
Accountability is the cornerstone of maintaining law and order in our community. But, Steve Howe knows that prosecutions are only part of the accountability equation. In addition to lengthy jail sentences, Steve has pursued both prevention initiatives and programs to address the underlying circumstances that often give rise to individuals encountering law enforcement. The multi-pronged approach by his office is a comprehensive strategy to reduce crime, preserve our robust Johnson County quality of life, and to keep our communities safe for our families.
Stopping Elder Abuse
Our elderly residents are too often targeted by financial schemes, physical abuse and intimidation. Responding to these threats effectively requires prompt investigation, intervention and prosecution. Therefore, in 2010, working with area law enforcement agencies, the Kansas Department of Children and Families (the state agency responsible for issues regarding the welfare of elderly Kansans) and medical professionals, District Attorney Steve Howe established Financial Abuse Specialist Teams (F.A.S.T) to quickly identify, react to and investigate elder abuse. The effort has resulted in numerous convictions, preventing further victimization of elderly Johnson County residents by those prosecuted criminals.
Confronting Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a danger that can result in great tragedy, including death. Confronting this danger, District Attorney Steve Howe implemented the first Kansas “Domestic Lethality Assessment.” Since 2011, this program has proven an effective tool to identify and reduce domestic violence in Johnson County, and most importantly has significantly reduced the number of domestic related homicides.
Further, providing support for domestic violence victims is critical as they move forward to better circumstances. Steve Howe’s office has partnered with organizations like Safehome, and coordinated with local law enforcement agencies and the Johnson County District Court to achieve a stronger safety net for victims. Recognizing the importance of support organizations, Steve Howe led the 2014 Safehome capital campaign to ensure needed resources are available without delay for victims of domestic violence.
Steve Howe was recognized in 2015 for his efforts to combat domestic violence, receiving the Community Based Ally of the year award from the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.
Solving Sexual Assault Cold Cases
Justice is not achieved when cases go unsolved. District Attorney Steve Howe has made a priority of achieving justice for sexual assault victims not only of crimes committed today, but also for those victims still awaiting closure from crimes in the past. Toward that end, Steve Howe directed his office to re-examine cold cases, and to engage modern technology to test evidence and cross-reference today’s crime databases to aid in finally resolving often years old cases. Justice may for a time have been delayed, but with this new initiative justice is finally being achieved.
Sexual abuse is one of the most heinous of crimes. Steve Howe has been a leader in law enforcement efforts to solve and to prosecute sexual assault crimes, and to support victims of these crimes. Among many efforts, Steve served on the statewide Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI). This statewide effort worked to eliminate the backlog of untested kits throughout the state, and to establish best practices to support and achieve justice for sexual assault victims. Steve has also served for ten years as a member of the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) Johnson County Advisory Board.
ADVOCATING FOR SAFE KIDS, SAFE SCHOOLS
Identifying and Stopping Truancy & Abuse
District Attorney Steve Howe has worked with area school districts and private schools to develop an initiative to better combat and report truancy and child abuse. Steve Howe’s office has partnered with local child abuse prevention organizations to make available programs to teach critical skills to both school staff and children to identify and report incidents of abuse.
Preventing the Tragedy of Teen Suicide
Perhaps one of the most tragic trends confronting our society today is that of teen suicide. Adolescence has been difficult throughout the generations, but today a myriad of additional pressures are shouldered by teens, both in the family home and school ̶ and the proliferation of social media and lack of privacy in so many aspects of our daily lives have amplified and added to the many challenges our teens find themselves navigating at an increasingly early age. The often overwhelming weight of these challenges tragically lead some teens to the otherwise unthinkable.
Recognizing this growing societal issue, Steve Howe is working with Johnson County School Districts, Johnson County Mental Health, and numerous private and public community partners to widely implement the “Zero Reasons Why” program to provide both support and to teach skills to identify and prevent the tragedy of teen suicide. Together, this partner group is working on strategies to further address the underlying causes for the rise in teen suicide.
Difficulty, abuse, and neglect can affect children of all ages. Maintaining strong community based programs to support children in troubled circumstances is critical. Steve Howe has long been an advocate for our Johnson County children and serves on the board of Sunflower House, the child advocacy center for children who suffer from abuse and neglect.
Education as an Alternative to Prosecution
Recognizing that bad judgments by juveniles are better dealt with by education, rather than the heavier gavel of prosecution, Steve Howe established the “pre-file” diversion program for minors in possession of alcohol. Rather than filing charges that would pull a juvenile into the court system and a resulting record, juveniles who complete the education and probation-similar requirements of the program can move on with their lives, armed with important information, and strong lesson learned. While this program, among others, provides a “second chance” for juveniles, it’s not an open-ended grace card. Repeat offenders will find themselves facing much different consequences. Since 2009, the “pre-file” program has maintained a 90% success rate.
COMPASSION FOR STRUGGLING VETERANS
Veterans of our armed services often face unique and difficult circumstances. Employment, housing and other needs are often elusive, as well as obtaining services necessary for mental and physical health needs. The challenges faced by our veterans as they transition from active duty can be overwhelming and in certain instances lead some to unfortunate encounters with the law.
Understanding PTSD can many times be a primary factor precipitating veteran encounters with law enforcement, and recognizing the sacrifice of their service, District Attorney Steve Howe partnered with veteran advocates, the Veterans Administration, and our court system to establish the first Kansas Veterans Treatment Court. Since 2016, this program has provided veterans suffering from trauma associated with their service a specialized intervention designed to get affected veterans needed resources and back onto a path toward a promising civilian future.
Steve Howe has made honoring the service of our military men and women a key value of the district attorney’s office. In 2019 the Office of the Johnson County District Attorney was recognized with the Department of Defense Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) “Above and Beyond” and “Patriot Award” for its support of employees who serve in the Kansas National Guard and military services reserves.
RESOLVING MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES
A growing trend nationally and in Johnson County is law enforcement increasingly encountering those suffering from mental health issues. Many of these encounters are low level crimes stemming from the absence of diagnosis or treatment and resulting circumstances. However, some of these encounters can quickly escalate.
District Attorney Steve Howe has partnered with Johnson County Mental Health and area law enforcement agencies to develop a co-responders program. When these encounters arise, a mental health co-responder is called upon to assist law enforcement to resolve confrontations with those suffering from mental health issues. The co-responders program is also supplemented with additional Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and mental health first aid training for law enforcement.
The intent of these efforts is to prevent unnecessary escalation, to provide law enforcement with mental health expertise to resolve the encounter, and to assist in the future determination of next appropriate action.
One such course of action is a new mental health diversion program developed by Steve Howe’s office to address low level offenders who suffer from serious mental health issues. Through this diversion program, and in partnership with Johnson County Mental Health, these individuals are guided to obtaining required necessary treatment for their particular mental health needs.
TACKLING DRUG CRIMES,
BREAKING THE CYCLE OF ADDICTION
In response to the opioid epidemic, District Attorney Steve Howe has led the way in prosecuting drug dealers who sell drugs to individuals that result in an overdose death. Going beyond previous prosecutorial practices in most jurisdictions, Steve takes a longer view of the usual drug transaction to incorporate the consequences of that transaction – which too often results in death. Steve’s approach recognizes that the drug trade isn’t mere illegal commerce, but is in reality a cancer on our society, our families, and the safety of our community. Illegal drugs are often the underpinning of property crimes, assault, domestic abuse, health complications, overdose deaths and murder. The drug trade is a serious attack on the very core of our quality of life.
Steve Howe also knows that the drug trade would not exist without customers. Addiction is a tragic circumstance for those affected and their families. Breaking the cycle of addiction is key to breaking the drug trade and reducing a broad spectrum associated crime. Toward that end, the Office of the Johnson County District Attorney is working with the Community Corrections Department to help offenders with addiction issues to receive treatment and where deemed safe and appropriate, a specialized work release program to obtain job training. Dealing directly with the addiction and establishing a pathway to a more promising future are key in reducing the cycle of repeat incarceration, reducing overall crime, and eroding the illegal drug trade at the center of all of these issues.
VICTIM OUTREACH, SUPPORT & RESOLUTION
District Attorney Steve Howe serves on the board of directors for the Johnson County Family Justice Center project, which when fully established will provide a more holistic approach in assisting victims of crime. Currently, there are many resources for victims and their families, but the resources are scattered through various agencies and organizations, both public and private. The Justice Center is a privately funded non-profit effort to establish a one-stop point of contact for victims to access the most comprehensive and effective support for their particular situational needs. Similar efforts in communities across America have resulted in significant drops in rates of domestic abuse, homicides, relationship and family related crimes, and even reduced recidivism by offenders.
COMMUNITY RECOGNITION & OUTREACH
District Attorney Steve Howe and his staff are frequent presenters to schools, businesses, chambers of commerce and community groups, as well as law enforcement. Continued outreach and education is a major initiative of the district attorney’s office to inform the community on the law and consequences, as well prevention, identifying behaviors, and law enforcement best practices.
Steve has served for eight years as a board member of the Kansas County and District Attorney Association, and also serves on the Criminal Justice Advisory Board for Johnson County.
Steve was elected and has served for eight years as a member of the 10th Judicial District Judicial Nominating Commission. The Commission interviews candidates seeking to become District Court judges and makes appointment recommendations to the Kansas Governor’s office.
Steve has testified before the Kansas Legislature on a number of bills including enacting the Hard 50 law for 1st degree murder, strengthening D.U.I. laws, elder abuse, and mandatory reporting laws for child abuse.
In 2016 Steve received the NAACP Martin Luther King Legacy Award.
In 2017 Steve received the Law Enforcement Commendation Medal from the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.