Opinions differ on handling Wichita gang problem

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WICHITA, Kansas – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is talking tough when it comes to gangs.

Speaking to the Wichita Crime Commission on Thursday, Schmidt wants Kansas lawmakers to rewrite the Hard 50 sentence to keep gang members locked up as long as possible.

“We’re talking about the most heinous aggravated killers in Kansas,” said Schmidt. “There’s a reason for 15 years Kansans, through public law, have said we ought to have a certain groups of people removed from society for at least 50 years. We have a lot of cases that need to be fixed at this time that are already pending.”

Schmidt says using laws like the RICO Act, prosecuting gang member on racketeering charges, has helped to lock up more gang members, garnering praise from law enforcement and prosecutors across the state.

But not everyone agrees with Schmidt. When it comes to tackling gang issues, Brandon Johnson has his own solution to the gang problem.

“We’re not investing the money in programs and resources, in the people or organizations that are actually teaching these people skills like how to get a job,” said Johnson.

Johnson is not a cop, lawyer, or politician. He is simply someone who wants to make a difference, one he believes starts from the core: education and prevention rather than increased laws and gang units.

“We have to think outside the box and do something different,” said Johnson. “Maybe they think they are by putting out the picture of the top ten, but that’s not doing anything except getting those people knocked off the streets, put in prison, and if you give them whatever sentence the prison system’s not doing anything for them either.”

“Those are much tougher,” Schmidt said about community prevention. “It’s very hard to have a one size fits all approach and so I think our approach there is really convening the forum and letting good ideas out of Wichita be shared.”

Schmidt says his office is working to find solutions with prevention and education in crime-riddled communities.

He’s also requesting more funds for the KBI to help county attorneys go after criminals.

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