New sheriff’s unit keeping an eye on Sedgwick County’s highways

06/30/2013 5:00 PM

06/30/2013 5:49 PM

Criminal activity is rolling on the major highways bisecting the Wichita metropolitan area, so the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office has created a law enforcement team to fight it.

The Criminal Interdiction Unit, which went active in early June, has two primary goals, Capt. Annette Haga said.

“It’s focused on interdicting any crime in transit” in Sedgwick County, she said. “It also is targeted enforcement, to address any issues — gang crime or other crime trends.”

The county has many major highways that criminals use, she said, among them U.S. 54, I-135, K-96, K-254 and Broadway.

When Jeff Easter took office as sheriff in January, he made the unit a priority. A sergeant’s position in the budget was “unfrozen,” Haga said, and three deputies chosen for the team.

“At its base it’s just good law enforcement,” she said. “We’re giving them the time, the training and focus to go out and address this issue.

“This isn’t necessarily drug interdiction. It’s any type of crime. It may be narcotics, it may be terrorism, it may be stolen vehicles, fugitives, sex trafficking...

“There really is no limit as to what they come in contact with.”

A K-9 unit will join the effort at some point, she said. When the unit isn’t on special assignment, the deputies handle routine patrols.

The concept of targeting highway crime isn’t a new one, she said. When she was a patrol deputy in the 1990s, “this is something I spent time trying to do,” Haga said.

But instead of beat cops who do “a little bit of this type of work when time allows it,” she said, this effort makes highway interdiction more of a priority.

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