Increase in violent criminals adding stress to Sedgwick County jail deputies

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – From rape to homicides, Wichita’s crime rate is on the rise. Cases of rape are up more than 20-percent since 2016. Wichita Police report a similar jump in the number of aggravated assaults. When it comes to homicide, the cases nearly doubled in the past four years.

Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said his staff is overwhelmed dealing with a surge in inmate population. 

“Almost the entire population here is violent criminals,” said Easter. “We have about 118 homicide suspects that are in our custody right now and that’s more than we’ve ever seen at any time since this jail was built in 1991 — so there are a lot of issues that come with that.”

Sheriff Easter said more violent criminals in the jail have his already limited staff spread thin. He said they are currently down 80 jail deputies and lacking another 19 deputies in the field.

Sheriff Easter said he is seeing an increase in assaults from inmates to officers and gang-related issues.  “We’re seeing a lot more assaults on staff, we’re seeing a lot more assaults on inmate to inmate, we’re seeing the gang stuff take place in here again,” said Easter.

More deputies are needed to deescalate a single situation. Deputy Ryan Burkhead said it adds some stress to the job. “They’re upset with us because we’re working and dealing with them and they don’t want to be arrested, they don’t want to be charged for that, so it brings a little more violence in here too,” he said.

There is hope, as Easter said 13 recruits graduated Wednesday, but said there is still a large gap to fill. 

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