By RACHEL MIPRO
TOPEKA — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation director said the agency’s new data tracking system is about halfway complete and will create a better overview of the state’s crime problem, including a potential rise in fentanyl cases.
During a Tuesday legislative budget hearing, KBI director Kirk Thompson said the new system would store details about criminals that the old system isn’t equipped for, including socioeconomic conditions, geographic details and other relevant case features.
“We’ll know a lot more about each individual case. Whether it was homicide by knife, homicide by firearm and much, much more granular information about crime in our state,” Thompson said.
The old data system, the Kansas Incident Based Reporting System, hasn’t been changed in decades. It contains all the data from criminal reports submitted by law enforcement agencies across the state. Thompson said more than 250,000 offense and arrest reports are added into the system each year, and are used to gain a sense of Kansas crime rates and areas of concern.
Thompson said he was concerned the old system would break down, because it was built with technology that is no longer used today, and that it can only provide basic crime statistics. KIBRS was created in 1993 and was last updated in 2001.
“This particular system is well beyond its effective lifecycle, and the technologies it’s built upon are no longer supported,” Thompson said. “The data security of those technologies is questionable, and it’s absolutely inflexible as to questions regarding what is 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 an $3 million federal grant, along with some internal funding for an assessment of system priorities and needs.
Sen. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland, said the KBI needs to examine data surrounding fentanyl cases.
“I think this is just coming into Kansas like water, and I think if we don’t get a handle on it, we’re going to have so many young people dead, it’s going to be a sad day,” Billinger said.
Thompson said the update was urgently needed for examining data in all criminal cases.
“There’s really nothing we can do with this antiquated system,” Thompson said. “It can’t be changed.”
During the hearing, predictions of revenue for the upcoming year also were discussed. Forecasts show rough times ahead for farmers across the state.
Kansas has experienced steady growth in farm income over the past few years, according to the Kansas Legislative Research Department and Kansas Division of the Budget, which released estimates ahead of Tuesday’s budget hearing.
But drought and rising material costs are predicted to negatively impact farmers, especially with western Kansas struggling with drought since early 2019.
“We’ve seen some declines in 2022, and it’s really all around drought conditions and lack of rain in other places as well,” said J.G. Scott, director of legislative research. “We’re not projecting that we’re going to be able to keep up with that production as much as we would like, though it’s still high.”
Corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum crop yields decreased by 20% compared to 2021. Overall, Kansas’ agricultural exports for this year are still expected to have the same value as last year, in the range of $5 billion.
Kansas’ unemployment rate decreased by 0.6% percentage points from 2021 to 2022, shifting from 3.2% to 2.6%. In 2023, unemployment rates are predicted to have a slight increase, rising to 3.5% overall unemployment.
Job recovery is also on the rise — Kansas lost 157,400 jobs between February and April of 2020 and has recovered more than 80% of these lost jobs.