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Exploited and Missing Child Unit understaffed, Sedgwick County sheriff tells commissioners in budget request

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, May 19, 2014, at 4:17 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, July 17, 2014, at 7:12 a.m.

The Exploited and Missing Child Unit, which investigates crimes against children, is “seriously becoming understaffed,” Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter told county commissioners Monday.

EMCU is a joint project of the Sheriff’s Office, the Wichita Police Department and the Kansas Department for Children and Families. Its staff investigates sexual and physical abuse against children, Internet crimes involving children and human trafficking.

The unit’s workload has unfortunately been on the rise, Easter said.

In 2010, EMCU worked 4,083 cases. By 2013, the caseload had increased to 4,526, or more than 10 percent.

“This equates to one new case a day for each of the current 14 detectives assigned to” EMCU, Easter said.

Not only is the number of cases rising, but the time commitment investigating these types of crimes is staggering, Easter said.

“These cases take a lot to investigate,” he said. “These are not one-day type cases.”

EMCU detectives conducted 3,358 interviews last year, he said. About 1,300 of those interviews were of a forensic nature, he said, and required several hours per interview.

Human trafficking is becoming a “huge” problem for the area, Easter said, and shows no sign of slowing.

Easter is requesting the county pay for one more detective in the unit at a cost of about $71,000, including benefits.

The additional detective is one of several additional requests beyond the Sheriff Office’s base budget for next year.

Commissioner Jim Skelton said he was willing to spend what is needed to “keep these scumbags” who prey on children off the streets.

Easter is requesting a total of about $700,000 above his base budget for next year. The current budget for the Sheriff’s Office is about $52.7 million.

The county has not yet released the budget for next year. County Manager William Buchanan will present his recommended budget to commissioners July 16. Public hearings on next year’s county budget will be July 30 and Aug. 7. Commissioners are scheduled to adopt a budget Aug. 13.

Extra courthouse security, an inmate program coordinator, fees for internet connections for mobile computers, deputy uniforms, transportation for Comcare clients, training and food for jail and work release inmates round out the requests.

The inmate programs coordinator would help oversee a mentoring program geared to help inmates be successful when they leave custody.

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