OPINION

Kansas can be the state to set the example for correct approaches to criminal justice

By Tony Mattivi
Special to Gannett Kansas
Tony Mattivi

Earlier this month, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation released a very troubling 2020 Crime Index. Violent crimes in Kansas were up 9.5% over 2019. Aggravated assault and battery were up by nearly 14%.

Even more staggering, the murder rate was up an alarming 48.5% over 2019.

Our state hasn’t seen this dramatic an increase in the murder rate since 1991, and we experienced the most murders in the state (193 this year) since the FBI began tracking this information in 1959.

The KBI concluded “(f)inding a common circumstance surrounding these murders is difficult.” The KBI appropriately views this problem from a statistical perspective — and from that view, their conclusion is undoubtedly correct.

But this problem should also be viewed from a societal perspective. Viewed through that lens, the common circumstance is apparent and disturbing.

Our nation, and our state, are experiencing a “perfect storm” of circumstances fueling this dramatic rise in violent crime and murder. Our police are under siege not only due to increased negative sentiment toward the rule of law, but also the overall shift in mindset toward an ideology that being soft on crime is enlightened or praiseworthy.

For proof that the police are under siege, one need only turn on the nightly news. We see video footage of officers across the country being ambushed, attacked and even killed. We hear misguided demands to defund the police (demands I can’t stomach when coming from people who live in gated communities or who are protected by private security details).

Our country is built on the right to protest but to do so peacefully. Disrespect for the rule of law is evident from “peaceful protestors” who are anything but peaceful and who would more accurately be called looters than protestors.

And what some view as social enlightenment is oftentimes nothing more than a soft on crime approach that has resulted in decreasing or eliminating mandatory minimum sentences, shortening prison terms, and releasing inmates early.

In the face of this perfect storm, no one should be surprised that the rate of violent crime is increasing or that our state experienced more murders last year than it ever has. But Kansas is filled with kind, decent people with solid common sense and unshakeable values.

Kansas should take the lead in pushing back against the perfect storm of lawlessness, disrespect for authority and wrongheaded approaches to criminal justice. To reduce the violent crime rate, rather than allowing it to continue to increase, our society must fight back against these forces.

Kansas can and should be the state that sets the example of how to right these wrongheaded approaches to criminal justice.

Tony Mattivi is a career prosecutor who retired from the U.S. Department of Justice last year. He is a Republican candidate for Kansas attorney general.