The Wichita Police Department will be shifting nearly 40 officers to special investigation teams in January to address the increasing number of violent crimes.
Three people were killed in Wichita this past weekend, pushing the number of murders in the city to 35 this year. There were 34 murders in 2016.
Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said guns were used in 26 of the 35 murders.
Ramsay said beginning next month, three teams will focus their work on drug cases, crimes involving street gangs, and community policing.
"There’s no doubt when you have cops in the community where people know them and feel comfortable talking to them, we get more information," Ramsay said during a news briefing Monday. "The closer we get our cops to the community, I think the safer our cops are, and the more successful we are solving crime."
Ramsay said reassigning officers to special investigative teams for a three-month trial period was successful, so he wants to try this approach again.
The pilot program to recentralize street crime and gangs teams to focus on problem areas in the city ran from May to August this year.
Ramsay said during the trial period that the three teams generated 385 cases that resulted in 375 arrests. They made 434 gang contacts and seized 101 guns.
Beginning in January, a team of 10 officers will be assigned to special investigations and will work on residential drug cases and will also respond to violent crime cases in the city.
A second team, a violent crimes community response team of 12 officers, will initiate and be proactive in their investigations into known violent offenders as well as focusing on violent street gangs.
A patrol community response team will have 16 officers at the WPD’s four bureaus. They will work closely with community policing teams and address trends that are being seen throughout the bureau.
“So they will be focusing on the worst offenders, working with our intelligence unit to really target those who are causing the problems,” Ramsay said. “We see these increasing numbers and what we were doing, and it was time to look and evaluate on were we being effective. We want to try this longer-term and see how it works.”
Ramsay said arguments or domestic issues led to half of the murders this year. He said six murders were for unknown reasons; five were the result of robberies; three were gang-related; one involved an accident and two were officer-involved shootings.
Wichita Police are looking for leads in 10 murder cases right now.
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