TOPEKA — The director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation says the agency’s new data tracking system is about halfway complete and will provide better insight into the state’s crime problem, including a potential increase in fentanyl cases.
During Tuesday’s legislative budget hearing, KBI Director Kirk Thompson said the new system will store details about criminals that the old system was not equipped to capture, including socioeconomic conditions, geographic details and other relevant case characteristics.
“We will know a lot more about each individual case.” Whether it was a knife murder, a gun homicide, and much, much more detail about crime in our state,” Thompson said.
The old data system, the Kansas Incident Based Reporting System, hasn’t changed in decades. It contains all data from criminal reports filed by law enforcement agencies across the state. Thompson said more than 250,000 misdemeanor and arrest reports are added to the system each year, which is used to get an idea of Kansas’ crime rate and areas of concern.
Thompson said he worries the old system will break down because it was built with technology that is no longer used today and can only provide basic crime statistics. KIBRS was created in 1993 and was last updated in 2001.
“This particular system is well past its effective life cycle and the technologies it’s built on are no longer supported,” Thompson said. “The data security of these technologies is questionable and absolutely inflexible when it comes to questions about what’s going on in our state.”
Thompson said the new information system being developed will provide much more detailed and timely crime data. The system was funded through a $3 million federal grant along with some internal funding to assess system priorities and needs.
Sen. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland, said the KBI needs to examine data related to fentanyl cases.
“I think it’s coming to Kansas like water, and I think if we don’t get it under control, we’re going to have so many young people dead, it’s going to be a sad day,” Billinger said.
Thompson said the update is urgently needed to examine data in all criminal cases.
“There’s really nothing we can do about this antiquated system,” Thompson said. “It can’t be changed.”
Revenue forecasts for the coming year were also discussed during the hearing. Forecasts show farmers across the state are in for tough times.
Kansas has seen steady farm income growth over the past few years, according to the Kansas Legislative Research Department and the Kansas Budget Division, which released estimates ahead of Tuesday’s budget hearing.
However, the drought and rising input costs are expected to negatively impact farmers, especially with western Kansas dealing with drought since early 2019.
“We’ve seen some declines in 2022, and it’s really all about drought and lack of rain in other places as well,” said JG Scott, director of legislative research. “We don’t anticipate being able to keep up with that production as we would like, even though it’s still high.”
Yields for corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum are down 20% compared to 2021. Overall, agricultural exports from Kansas for this year are still expected to be around the same value as last year, in the $5 billion range.
Kansas’ unemployment rate decreased by 0.6 percentage points from 2021 to 2022, moving from 3.2% to 2.6%. In 2023, the unemployment rate is expected to rise slightly to 3.5% overall.
Job recovery is also on the rise, with Kansas losing 157,400 jobs from February to April 2020 and recovering more than 80% of those lost jobs.