The crime rate in Parsons has dropped, according to a recent report from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

The 2018 KBI Uniform Crime Analysis Report shows a drop in the city’s overall crime rate by about eight percentage points from 2017 numbers.

In 2018, the total index crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault/battery, burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft) were down to 446, or 46.2% per 1,000 people in the community. In 2017, Parsons had 531 index crimes, or 54.1% per 1,000 people.

Parsons residents reported 93 violent crimes in 2018 compared to 80 in 2017. Most of these reports relate to aggravated assault (threat of violence) and aggravated battery (the act of violence).

In 2018, Parsons residents reported 353 property crimes (mostly thefts, or 255). In 2017, residents reported 451 property crimes, most of them thefts (308).

Parsons Police Chief Robert Spinks was pleased to see overall crime numbers going down in Parsons, the lowest they’ve been in a decade excepting in 2014, when the total crime index was at 44.7%. Spinks began work in the fall of 2018 and he attributes the drop to work done by former Police Chief Jason Sharp and the department.

“A lot of credit goes to Jason. He was trying to put the department on a different course. He brought a fresh set of eyes with an outside perspective,” Spinks said of Sharp, who now works as a dean at Labette Community College.

Sharp used research and national benchmarks for department changes.

“We’re continuing down that road,” Spinks said.

Spinks said he thinks sharing information with the community also helps the process.

“I get a lot of positive feedback from Mr. and Mrs. Parsons and the fact that they see more information about what the police department is doing. And I think that contributes to supporting the crime prevention model of ‘see it, hear it, report it,’” Spinks said.

Officers and the department try to be as proactive as they can, he said, given staff shortages. Shortages come from turnover, retirements and injured officers on light duty. He hopes the department will be much more proactive at 100% staffing.

As officers make good arrests, that squeezes the balloon harder, he said, and may displace or deter crime.

Violent crime is rising in Kansas and nationally. Kansas’ violent crime rate is 16.5% above the 10-year average, which included 12,367 violent crimes statewide, police reported.

Violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and battery) are on the rise in Parsons, up to 9.6% per 1,000 people compared to 8.2% in 2017.

The state’s domestic violence law changed and cases that involve choking a victim have increased to the felony level rather than a misdemeanor, which would not show up on the crime rate report.

Violent crime started to increase in Kansas about four years ago. 

“There’s never just one cause,” he said of the uptick.

Economic conditions, low wages and other factors can grow the potential for crime, drug abuse and families in crisis.

And drug use fuels violent crime and property crime. Many recent shootings are tied to drugs, he said.

Spinks said the availability of drugs in the community has created a problem for businesses as well as the community.

“Their biggest struggle is trying to get people who can pass a drug test. That’s just mind-blowing,” Spinks said.

A regional drug task force worked in Southeast Kansas for years, but disbanded. Spinks hopes the new task force in Labette County will have an impact. Mike Powell is police commander and oversees the unit as it gears up.

Area communities of Coffeyville and Pittsburg saw increases in overall crime. Coffeyville’s rate per 1,000 residents rose to 57.4% in 2018 compared with 52.7% in 2017. Pittsburg’s rose to 54.5% up from 52.9%.

Parsons is now behind Pittsburg, Coffeyville and Independence in the crime rate. Chanute only reported to the KBI for four months in 2018 and six months in 2017. 

Spinks said in a prepared statement that the report “shows the community that as a department we are making a difference, and despite what you may occasionally read on social media, the Parsons Police Department has been effecting change and in a very positive way.” 

“We have high expectations for our community, and it all starts by keeping it safe. This is the kind of report that really shows that the department is succeeding in our mission,” Spinks said in the statement. “This is a never-ending journey that will have ups and downs. As long as we can continue to partner with the good citizens of Parsons to ensure a citywide commitment to ‘See It, Hear It, Report It,’ we will continue to bring those who commit crimes to justice, this journey will be a successful one.”

The police department will put out a more comprehensive report for 2019 in early 2020 for a look at the department operations.

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