Topeka — Law enforcement agencies in Kansas are facing a sharp increase in violent crimes as the state Bureau of Investigation deals with a shortage of agents to support local departments.
The bureau provided data Tuesday on violent-crime rates to the Joint Committee on Kansas Security, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported .
The statistics show the number of reported killings statewide increased by more than 46 percent between 2014 and 2016, the highest level since 2000. The overall violent crime rate climbed more than 15 percent, with increases in rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Bureau officials said the number of investigators has dwindled since 2009, leaving agents overwhelmed and forcing the department to shell out more overtime pay to meet demands.
“We currently have twice as many active, open homicides as we do people to investigate them,” said Katie Whisman, an executive officer at the bureau. “That’s a threat.”
Whisman said the agency has had to take on fewer cases and work agents harder in order to keep up with demand. Overtime pay expenses increased by more than 700 percent between 2012 and 2017.
Whisman said the bureau began prioritizing some types of crime for investigation in 2012, including homicides and major violent crimes, crimes against children, governmental integrity or public corruption crimes, and crimes by criminal enterprises, such as drug trafficking networks. Other requests for assistance get declined.
“We certainly miss the days when we had better KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) capacity to support the small agencies,” said Ed Klumpp, a lobbyist representing several law enforcement associations.
Rep. Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, said the bureau needs more resources, but that he would like to compare Kansas’ violent crime and investigation bureau to other states first.