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Wichita Crime Rates on Rise

Info+from+KBI%2C+FBI+and+Illinois+Bureau+of+Investigation
Info from KBI, FBI and Illinois Bureau of Investigation

Info from KBI, FBI and Illinois Bureau of Investigation

infographic by Anna Craig and John Biehler

infographic by Anna Craig and John Biehler

Info from KBI, FBI and Illinois Bureau of Investigation

Jacob Morss, News Editor

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infographic by Anna Craig and John Biehler
Info from KBI, FBI and Illinois Bureau of Investigation

In the month of December, Wichita had 10 murders pushing its total for 2017 to 38 murders—toppling the previous year’s total. This has raised the question of why Wichita’s violent crime rate has been so high in the past few years. Since 2014, Wichita’s violent crime rate has steadily risen. As of 2016, the violent crime rate in Wichita is 10.6 victims per 1,000 citizens, which is up by 3.1 since 2014. This number is much higher than the Kansas rate of 3.7 per 1,000 citizens and the national rate of 3.86 per 1,000 citizens, according to the KBI and FBI.

Additionally, Wichita’s violent crime rate falls just 0.5 behind Chicago’s violent crime rate of 11.1 per 1,000 citizens in 2016. Wichita Homicide Detective Rob Chisholm said Wichita has factors that make it prone to high crime rates.

“The crime rate is predominantly driven by economic situations,” Chisholm said. “If you look at the census rates, we have had an increase, more people, thus more crime. The other problem we run into in Wichita, is that Wichita has resources. We have homeless shelters, probably the largest state parole office in the state, and community services that are larger than the rest of Kansas. When somebody gets paroled from prison, doesn’t matter where in Kansas, they are sent to Wichita. I don’t think Wichita has necessarily gotten more violent, but rather the rise in population and lower economic status has led to a rise in crime.”

The population of Wichita has risen by approximately 3,000 people from 2014 to 2016, according to the KBI. As of 2016, 22.3 percent of Wichita citizens live under the poverty line which is 6 percent higher than Kansas’s average. Demographically, whites make up 63 percent Wichita’s population with the next largest group being Hispanics at 17 percent, according to censusreporter.org. Sophomore Lovette Mba said the areas of Wichita have an integral role to do with crime levels, and that her neighborhood is known for having a lot of crime.

“In my neighborhood, there have been lots of drive by [shootings],” Mba said. “I remember one summer day there was a shooting at a house, and the people who committed the shooting ran off. When my sister and her boyfriend came home the police arrested them because they believed they had committed the shooting. It (crime) has gotten a lot better [in my neighborhood], but it has just moved over to another neighborhood.”

One of the contributors to the rising violent crime rate is the increase in homicides.

“When it comes to murders attributed to gang violence it happens cyclically,” Chisholm said. “The younger gang members are much more violent and willing to commit those violent crimes while the older gang members are just interested in making money.”

The Wichita Eagle broke down the reason behind the 38 homicides that occurred in 2017. Only three were gang-related which is a result in the major drop of gang violence since the ‘90s Chisholm said. According to the Wichita Eagle, most involved drugs and 21 out of 38 involved handguns. Chisholm said one of the leading contributors to violent crime rate is drug usage, especially the use of methamphetamines.

“The drugs that are prevalent also affect that (violent crime rate),” Chisholm said. “When you see things like opioids and heroin you aren’t going to see as much violent crime as you do property crimes, but when meth and speed are around those people are crazy. We see upticks in everything from murders, officer-involved shootings, everything like that goes up when meth is running high.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, side effects of methamphetamines include psychosis, paranoia, memory loss, weight loss, and a significant increase in aggressive or violent behavior. In Kansas, meth is the drug most widely involved in drug offenses and accounts for around 45 percent of drug offenses in Kansas, according to the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC).

Along with murders, aggravated assaults and battery have been the other violent crimes that have gradually risen in the past three years. When she was 16-years-old, junior Andrea Valenzuela was a victim of aggravated battery.

“In 2016, I was forced to drive my vehicle by three other girls,” Valenzuela said. “They made me go to places that I didn’t know so that I wouldn’t know where I was. We arrived at a house and they told me to open the door for them. Once I got out of the car to open the door they punched me in the face and I blacked out a little. They then got in the driver seat and started driving off. I was trying to get back in the vehicle and pulling on the outside handle, and on the fourth try to open it they sped off while I was still holding on. My hand was caught on the handle so I was dragged for a minute or two before the handle broke off. My head hit the concrete and then I passed out.”

In 2016, Wichita reported 3,169 cases of aggravated assaults/batteries, according to the KBI. This is an increase of approximately 1,000 cases of aggravated assaults/batteries from the past two years. When compared with the rest of Kansas, Wichita accounted for nearly 40 percent of the aggravated assaults/batteries in 2016. Chisholm said part of the reason for the increase in aggravated assaults was because the state redefined what qualifies as an aggravated assault.

“They added what we called ‘draw a deadly weapon’ to the qualifications of aggravated assaults,” Chisholm said. “So, let’s say I pull a gun out and show it to you, that is what I mean by ‘draw a deadly weapon.’ Now a person only needs to show a weapon in a threatening way in order for it to be qualified as an aggravated assault.”

A poll of 120 Kapaun Mt. Carmel students showed that 59 percent believed Wichita was an overall safe city. Like all cities, geography matters when it comes to crime and Wichita has its more crime-ridden areas, mostly in central and Southeast Wichita according to Neighborhood Scout, a website that tracks crime levels in U.S. cities. Although the 2017 crime index has not been released, it is already known for Wichita that there was an increase in murders, and most experts predict yet another rise in violent crime to be the result. In order to address the rising crime rate Chief Gordon Ramsay and Chisholm said the Wichita Police Department is creating three task forces to focus on stopping certain crimes, specifically in the more crime-ridden parts of Wichita.

Jacob Morss

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Wichita Crime Rates on Rise