Meth and crime: Recent increase has Kansas law enforcement calling it a threat to the state

Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNT) – Meth and crime, Kansas Law Enforcement officials said the two go hand in hand. The KBI is calling it a threat to our state.

In Sedgwick County, Sheriff Jeff Easter said 70% of all drug crimes involve meth.

“Meth is so cheap that it is the biggest abused drug here,” said Easter. 

In the last four years, the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s office has seen an increase in the number of criminal cases involving meth. It spiked from 11% in 2016 to 18.5% in 2020. 

“It’s robberies, homicides, and those types of things. It’s contributing to our homicide rates here,” said Easter. “118 murders now inside the Sedgwick County Jail, most of those are because of drug use.”

Harold Casey, CEO of the Substance Abuse Center of Kansas, said he’s also seeing an increase in those coming in for help. “It’s a 15 bed detox, and we’re full everyday, at some point of the day and about 70%t of our admissions are methamphetamine,” said Casey. 

Casey said the beds for women are typically open, but for men, the wait time can be two to three months. In August, the center plans to open 40 new beds in Hutchinson and expand their Wichita office to help fill the gap. 

Sheriff Easter is a part of a coalition that addresses drug and mental health issues. He said the group wants to solve the problem but admits it will take the whole community. 

“That’s really where we have to go in the criminal justice system because the drug use is just rampant at this point,” said Easter. 

The current state budget from Governor Laura Kelly provides $6 million dollars to remodel a building at the Lansing Prison. This will create 240 new beds for inmates with a history of drug addiction. 

“We just don’t do enough of that, and we know a lot of incarcerated folks have substance abuse problems — a lot of them get committed to our institutions and really don’t need prison as much as they need treatment,” said Governor Laura Kelly.

The KBI is also working on preventing repeat offenders. Communications director Melissa Underwood said it’s important because it negatively impacts public safety.

“We work to target repeat offenders and get them off the streets. If we can arrest and charge them for their crimes, then overall crimes rates and violence should decrease,” said Underwood. “Methamphetamine has been the greatest drug threat in our state for several years. It is cheap and very accessible, thus the reason we have so many overdose deaths.”

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