Meth addiction fuels growing Kansas crime rates, officials say

WICHITA, Kan. — Methamphetamine addiction is driving up Kansas’ crime rates and filling jails with individuals who would be better served in treatment centers, according to state and Wichita-area leaders.

Kansas and Sedgwick County officials met with community members at a Wichita Crime Commission event Thursday to discuss how to solve the state’s growing meth and opioid problem, the Wichita Eagle reported.

Seven out of 10 inmates at the county jail are struggling with drug addiction, many of whom are likely in need of drug treatment or mental health services, said Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this problem,” Easter said.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said meth addiction led many inmates to commit the crime that they were arrested for in the first place.

“People aren’t breaking into businesses, houses and cars for the thrill of it,” Bennett said. “They’re doing it to feed an addiction.”

But meth is driving violent crimes as well, according to Bennett. About 11 percent of all charged felony cases the district attorney’s office handles have at least one count of meth possession.

“That’s just the people who had meth in their pocket when they were arrested,” Bennett said.

After the panel, Easter said an oversight board and a strategic plan could help slow the growth of meth addiction. He added that the sheriff’s office is hiring a drug addiction specialist, which will help the county focus on drug treatment and mental health.

“We are committed to solving this right now so we don’t have to deal with it again in 10 years,” Easter said.